General Question

jca's avatar

Are you in favor of free education at public colleges and universities, and if so, how much would you be willing to have your taxes raised to make it happen?

Asked by jca (36059points) November 30th, 2011

In New York city, students of CUNY (City University of NY) are rallying to protest recent tuition hikes. One of the things they would like is for education at the CUNY schools to go back to being free which, apparently it was prior to the mid-1970’s.

Are you in favor of public universities and colleges being free, and if so, how much would you be willing to have your taxes raised in order to accomodate that?

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24 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I would be willing. I would take the tax hike.

Nullo's avatar

Maybe, if they could guarantee a good education to the capable. My alma mater (part of the University of Missouri system) had more than a few classes that were watered down for those who couldn’t hack regular coursework, and a free university would, I feel, have even more of that. Which makes your degree relatively worthless.
Frankly, I don’t think that Missouri’s tax base could support such a thing. Or any other state’s , for that matter – Illinois is bankrupt without free college.

wonderingwhy's avatar

So long as there’s a required service and/or easy repayment (structured to the student’s benefit) after graduation free or heavily subsidized would be a step in the right direction. I don’t see the social benefit in turning away qualified or genuinely interested students purely because of their financial position.

Issues such as qualification, drop-out, institutional quality and funding, and degree type (all or just certain ones?) would have to be hashed out. But yes, I’d be willing to accept a tax hike – how much would depend on the details.

Blackberry's avatar

I would take a tax hike, but that would never happen in America, where everything is socialism and profit is the most important.

jrpowell's avatar

They don’t need to raise taxes. They could just cut the budget for the Pentagon.

But part of me really dislikes giving cash to philosophy and history majors. Give the money to people who do stuff we need like doctors, teachers, engineers, and even plumbers.

garb's avatar

Your question is self-contradictory. How can one be in favor for a free educational service if he/she is going to be taxed for it? That’s is not free, the taxes are paying going to be paying for the service.

Blackberry's avatar

@garb I assumed that was so obvious it didn’t need to be said. Of course it’s not actually free.

garb's avatar

In that case, no, the student should pay for the service. If they can’t, then they should go work manual labor jobs until they save up enough to pay for it. The responsibility is also on the parents to pay tuition for their children.

1.6million New Yorkers left the state in the last 10 years because of tax hikes. New Yorkers Fleeing State

Also, the only reasons you have a hike in prices is because of financial aid. If students are going to receive $5000+ in financial aid, then the school can hike up the prices to that range. So either cut financial aid, which will force colleges to lower prices so students can afford it, or the students should apply for the financial aid.

Brooklyn College (cuny) charges $5000 for the year, so financial aid would cover the bill. The student would only have to pay for the books. Financial aid is just as bad though since the burden is still on the taxpayer.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

I would be willing to pay a flat .1% tax on any inter-bank or brokerage financial transactions over 1000 dollars, starting on dollar 1001.

boffin's avatar

Enough with all the give away programs…
Earn it!
Have a stake in your own education.
If you are paying for your ride then those four or four plus years will be studying, not partying.
Otherwise get the education through the GI Bill, prepay the learning with some kind of Gov’t. service.

DaphneT's avatar

Free college sounds great, but today’s technology should be changing the whole dynamic of college level studies. We should be asking ourselves do we really need a building or just access to the best minds on the topic and access to the best tutors on the topic and are the exams indicative of the knowledge required in the topic and do passing grades on these exams really reflect a competent aptitude in the topic. And so on. Answers to these questions could suggest that ‘free’ college is a thing of the past, ‘public’ versus ‘private’ could be easily undermined in certain subject fields but not in others. A whole new education-as-a-business model could emerge for post-secondary education that does away with brick and mortar requirements. Students with well-developed minds could teach themselves from what resources they can and sit for the exams, thereby reducing the cost of their education to the cost of the proctored exams. Students with undeveloped minds may need more structure and therefore would incur a heavier cost for the instructors and tutors in their subject matter.

nikipedia's avatar

You guys talking about students paying for themselves realize this question was about public schools, not all colleges and universities?

submariner's avatar

Last time I looked into this, there were under 20 million college students in the US, and average in-state tuition was around $5,000. What the heck, let’s call it $10,000 to be safe. 20M x $10k = $200 billion. That’s what our first year in Iraq cost us. So, yeah, free college education is feasible if we as a nation decide we want to invest in our human capital instead of squandering our resources on elective wars or tax cuts for the rich. (You can get the latest figures on enrollment and average tuition from the US Census.)

But the question asks what I personally would be willing to sacrifice for this goal. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll say that I would be willing to pay at least another $1000/ year to fund universal post-secondary education, provided that the tax increase were progressive (i.e., people who make a lot more than me would pay proportionately more than $1000) and appropriate strings were attached concerning how those funds could be used (no rip-off for-profit “universities”, no scammers dropping classes as soon as their aid check clears, etc.).

Concerning the value of philosophy, history, etc.: the framers of our constitution did not invent the idea of a republic or a union of states. They were all well-versed in the writings of Aristotle, Cicero, Machiavelli, Locke, Hume, and Montesquieu, and in the histories of republics and confederations of states from ancient Greece onwards. They were able to apply those lessons successfully and improve upon earlier models. Moreover, they understood that a popular government cannot work if the citizens could not think through the issues and were easily swayed by the specious arguments of demagogues. The liberal arts—when taught correctly and studied diligently—improve students’ ability to reason cogently and communicate effectively. If college education is to be free, more study of philosophy and history should be required, not less. If the public is paying for it, then a college degree should help prepare students for their roles as citizens, not just workers.

Paradox25's avatar

No since nothing comes for “free” in the end. Those who are motivated enough to get a college degree will do so regardless. There are multiple reasons why college tuitions are so high and this will not change due to the “free college for all” myth. Tuitions will not go down regardless but taxpayers who are already struggling to survive will have to pay the bill here. I do support increasing educational funding and options while students are attending compulsory school classes however before college.

everephebe's avatar

Yes. Hell, I’d chop off my right hand for that kind of deal… America needs this.

JLeslie's avatar

My father went to Hunter college in NY for free for his undergrad. It is part of the CUNY system. It was known as the Harvard for the poor, not sure now. He was given a choice of a fellowship to Yale or Scholarship to Wharton for his PhD, I only mention it to emphasize how prestigious Hunter was then in terms of IVY leagues respecting the education it provided. Hunter took the cream of the crop back then. Most city schools are perceived as taking anyone who applies, but that was not the case when my father went, I don’t know now. The tuition there is still relatively cheap, I know that. I am in favor of paying the taxes for the education of others at the university level if it is for people who really perform. I am not in favor of paying for dumbed down education so everyone can have a degree. I am also in favor of helping pay for vocational education. We need to be practical I think. I also want the money from head start and teaching 4 year olds moved to high school and college programs.

JLeslie's avatar

By the way Colin Powell received his undergrad education from City College in NY, he probably went for free I am guessing.

ETpro's avatar

I;ll pay to see that we stay competitive with all the other nations that provide college education to all qualified citizens at the expense of their taxpayers. Thomas Jefferson was a founding Father, the father if public education in the US (a radically progressive idea in his day) and the father of the University of Virginia. His writings reveal that he was convinced that public education through the graduate level should be provided to all citizens qualified to benefit from it. But he was unable to sell the idea to conservatives of his day, who wanted to ensure that only the wealthy could educate their kids. He had to settle for public education being limited to grades 1 – 12.

Think for a moment what America might be today, what kind of hyper-educated electorate we would have, if conservatives had not “protected” us from wasting money educating poor white trash in Jefferson’s day.

Bellatrix's avatar

I am not an American, but I would support this in my own country.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

RedPowerLady's avatar

Give me free education, free health care, and paid mother’s leave and they can take 30%.

Nullo's avatar

@RedPowerLady They already take something like 45%.

JLeslie's avatar

@Nullo Depends on what tax bracket you are in, what state you live in, if you own property. Some people pay much less than 30% on their total gross income. Remember the top tax bracket actually pays around 22% on average federal tax. Something like that. The taxes, Federal taxes, are paid on taxable income, which is not the total gross an individual is paid, and you only pay the higher percentage for the money over a certain amount. So let’s say you make $50k and I make $100k, my first $50k is taxed just like your $50k. I don’t pay the higher tax bracket on the whole thing. Plus, I might have some tax write-offs. I don’t pay any state income tax, I do pay property tax, and I have a high sales tax, but I don’t buy much, and I buy about 25% of my things in a state with lower sales tax. The tax tables are misleading, and so is the rhetoric around taxation.

Taxable income of $50k is probably around $7k tax. Around 14%, but the person making $50k actually takes deducations first and even pays less than that.

ETpro's avatar

@Nullo You need a better tax accountant. Warren Buffet only gets hit for 17.9%. The average employee in his office, earning money from income rather than interest, dividend, and stock trades. The office employeed got clipped for around 32%

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