On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) issued a proposal designed to alleviate student loan debt while rendering college tuition prices nonexistent for students attending public universities. While the notion of a free college education subsidized by American taxpayers is wildly tempting, it is simply a fever dream conjured up in the ambitious imaginations of desperate political candidates pandering to a subset of the population. Because higher education is a commodity and not a right, students will need to provide compensation for their pursuit of knowledge, as taxpayers are under no obligation to subsidize their tuition. However, there are effective means of reducing tuition prices so that students can afford an education while simultaneously graduating with less loan debt.
It is first important to understand the specific reasons that Sen. Warren’s proposal is hogwash. First and foremost, it is likely unconstitutional. The centerpiece of the proposal is the forgiving of “$50,000 in student loans for Americans in households earning less than $100,000 a year…[providing] immediate relief to more than 95 percent of the 45 million Americans with student debt.”
This act of forgiving student loan debt is in violation of the Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Embedded within the Fifth Amendment, the Takings Clause explicitly states, “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
The government cannot nullify private debt because that would be the confiscation of valuables without just compensation. Eminent domain, for the legal scholars among us, does not apply here because the benefits are for private usage as opposed to public.
Furthermore, Warren’s proposal calls for “a drastic increase in federal spending on higher education that would make tuition and fees free for all students at two- and four-year public colleges.” This is problematic for several reasons, the first of which is that it is financially implausible to burden taxpayers with the subsidization of college tuition for all to the tune of an estimated $1.25 trillion over the ensuing decade—no doubt a lowball approximation by the Warren campaign. Worse so, throwing money at problems doesn’t make them disappear. In fact, that’s precisely the reason tuition prices are so exorbitantly inflated.
On virtually every occasion that the government provides money for consumers, the price of the product increases. Quite simply, federal student loans are a massive catalyst for the increasing of tuition prices and subsequent student loan debt. The University of Connecticut, for example, has been steadily raising tuition following the 2015 approval of a plan to increase by 31 percent over the ensuing four years. The reason the university can do this is because federal student loans grant students the ability to pay.
There is a vital distinction to be made between federal and private student loans, the latter of which are granted exclusively on the basis of merit in the sense that the loan is private capital and private lenders are protective of their money. The solution to the problem of spiked tuition prices is for the federal government to stop loaning money to students, thereby decreasing the price of education in accordance with fundamental laws of supply and demand. There is a reason that grocery stores don’t charge 100 dollars for a gallon of milk.
Furthermore, the result of such action results in fewer young Americans attending college, which is ideal because, as it turns out, not everybody needs to attend college. Following graduation from high school, some folks would apprentice themselves in a business to obtain a specific skillset which is not offered by many degrees. Outside the STEM fields, most degrees fail to teach students a skill, rendering them unable to obtain employment following graduation—particularly employment offering a salary sufficient to pay off student loans.
The reason that a college degree is of such modern value is because 90 percent of Americans have graduated high school, flooding the market with high school diplomas and rendering them virtually worthless in the eyes of prospective employers who must now seek college degrees to distinguish between applicants.
Future financial success only correlates with college education insofar as the value of the degree obtained. Therefore, it is incorrect to presume that free college tuition for all will indefinitely result in prosperity for all. In unscrupulously subsidizing tuition, the federal government is merely accruing further financial hardship on behalf of recipients rather than supposedly leveling the playing field. Rather than monopolize the education system, the government ought to remove itself entirely. As for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, it would be wise to brush up on the U.S. Constitution before swearing to faithfully uphold it.
Kevin Catapano is a columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.