Oh Bernie, Let’s Tell the Truth.

Bernie Sanders says he can make tuition-free college a reality, reality says different.

Sanders has done an amazing job of rallying college students this election season, according to NBC News he pulled in a whopping 83% of the millennial vote in the New Hampshire primary, but many believe their support of him is built upon false hope. Sanders continues to preach this idea of a “political revolution” that will suddenly occur if he is elected president, but he tends to forget about checks and balances.

No revolution is going to happen unless he can manage to get the vast majority of congress voted out of office and replaced with representatives that will help his revolution’s cause. The odds of that happening are slim, but it is just one of the concerns regarding his tuition-free proposal.

What happens when Wall Street speculators (whom he plans on taxing to pay for his $75 billion a year plan) find ways around the tax? Does the middle class get stuck with the tax hikes? There are several holes in Sanders’ proposal. As Jim Zarroli of NPR put it: “many firms would find ways to get around the tax, by routing transactions through overseas markets.” That is a fact. Unfortunately, many big banks and investment firms thrive by finding tax loop holes. It is not fair, but that is the reality of the matter.

He also plans to leave it to the states to figure out how exactly this will be implemented. Most states struggle with funding K-12 education, and when it comes to higher education state schools, it is even more difficult to keep the funding consistent. Sanders should really examine how the states have dealt with various issues like this in the past, most recently the situation with Planned Parenthood. Nine states have defunded Planned Parenthood, do we really want certain governors in charge of our college educations in a similar way?

I’m a college student and to quote President Bartlett of The West Wing, “I’m a lily-livered, bleeding-heart liberal,” but I see nothing plausible about Bernie’s tuition-free college plan. Given my age demographic combined with my political ideology, I’m sure I’m in the minority because of my feelings on this issue, but we need to look at the numbers and do the arithmetic.

Sanders is claiming this whole plan will be paid for by a “wall street speculation tax.” In 2012, students spent $62.6 billion on tuition at public colleges in the U.S. This speculation tax simply will not cover that large and growing number. So who has to make up the difference? Students? Middle-class families?

I fear that the quality of education and the quality of life on campus will slip if we make college free. By the way, even though tuition would be taken care of, students would still be subject to campus fees (which would likely increase as a result of tuition-free college).

I know for sure that at Cal State Fullerton we have an issue with housekeeping. There are some classrooms that probably haven’t seen a vaccum or broom in years. I would expect these issues only to get worse under a Sanders presidency (assuming he can get tuition free college through congress). I would hope I am wrong about this, but I highly doubt it. Would we be able to hire more faculty if need be? It might just get a little harder without students paying tuition.

We are all rather familiar with the K-12 education system, at least California’s. In addition to state funding, most schools have to hold fundraisers to help pay for things that aren’t covered by the state. Will we see something similar to this happening at colleges and universities if tuition is taken away? While it probably is not the most likely, it surely is something to consider when thinking about free college. Not to mention the fact that students will still be paying for those hefty campus fees.

Sanders makes the argument that the United States is one of the only developed nation in the world that does not guarantee tuition-free college. However, this is not a very strong argument once you start looking at the numbers. His campaign website talks about European nations that have made their colleges tuition-free, but does not compare the population sizes.

Bernie’s website mentions Germany (pop. 80 million), Finland (pop. 5.4 million), Norway (pop. 5 million), and Sweden (pop. 9.6 million). The United States has a population three times as large as those four countries combined. We should not be comparing the massive education system of the U.S. with much smaller education systems/programs in much smaller countries. It’s like comparing Donald Trump to Abraham Lincoln, the two just do not compare.

As much as I would like to go to school for free, that’s just not the way it is. It’s not reality, or even a realistic belief. And it certainly is not something that should be a presidential campaign promise when the hopes of so many young Americans are riding on it. Let’s be realistic. Let’s stop making promises we can’t keep and can’t afford.


3 thoughts on “Oh Bernie, Let’s Tell the Truth.

    • It would likely generate around $35 Billion per year, leaving a $40 Billion gap. Now this number was pretty hard to find. I researched CNBC and NPR to come up with this number. The $35 billion reflects a 30 cent tax on every transaction $1,000 or greater.


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