How to Wreck Universities: Make Them Free

One of the high priority items for the incoming Democratic House is to make college free. It is perfectly understandable why Democrats would want to do this. Just look how successful they were at making health care more widely available and affordable with Obamacare!

No, that’s not the reason. Noting that people with college degrees tend to vote more Democratic, one way to generate more Democratic voters is to have more kids to go to college, and require them to take “diversity and inclusion” classes that teach exclusively left-wing dogma. But as usual I doubt Democrats have thought through the unintended consequences and perverse results that are likely to ensue from such a policy.

First, because “free college” will be limited to public colleges and universities, it will likely kill off a lot of smaller private liberal arts colleges (which are often more radical and degenerate than public universities—a thesis I’ll have to explain at length some other time), whose higher tuition rates simply won’t be competitive with “free” public colleges. I have actually heard some faculty at private liberal arts colleges worry about this already. Who is going to pay $60,000 a year for a liberal arts college when you can go to Evergreen State for free?

Second, I predict most faculty are going to hate the new “free university,” because it will attract a lot of marginal students who simply don’t belong in college classrooms, and it will put additional pressure on faculty to practice grade inflation, as well as waste their time grading inferior term papers and holding hands with needy students.

Third, it will increase income inequality. A lot of marginal students will waste time in college where they will be unlikely to finish a degree, and lose time in the workplace where they might have learned a useful skill or trade. It is quite possible that “free” college will actually increase resentment of higher education among Americans who aren’t cut out for university life. More votes for Trump. In addition, given that most colleges make heavy use of poorly paid adjunct professors these days, juicing the student body numbers is going to worsen this phenomenon, which, if it occurred in any private sector industry, would be a scandal for liberals. Tenured professors are perhaps the greatest privileged class today, and “free” college is likely to make this circumstance more problematic.

So bring on free college, I say. And pop up a ton of popcorn. It will be fun to watch higher education unravel further.