John Moonstroller

This conversation is closed.

Why can't we have free college education in the United States?

"My apologies to the users for my stupid mistake. I have changed the question to state what I originally intended to ask. I'm thankful that TED has an edit and delete function :)
I'm deeply embarrassed."


There are many countries that offer higher education at no cost to the public.

While nothing is free, in these countries, the taxpayers picks up the tab. Of course, this could only occur if the majority of the leaders of those countries place a very high value on the education of their citizens.

So, because the cost of a college degree is so high here in the United States, does that mean that most American leaders and/or Citizens don't place a high value on the general education of their citizens?

How do those countries who offer free college education view us as a democratic nation? Do they think we are just a silly bunch of wealth seeking individuals with a strong military posture and an ample supply of Nuclear missiles? Why should we charge citizens for a college education in the United States?

Closing Statement from John Moonstroller

US teen invents advanced cancer test using Google
http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourcommunity/2012/08/teen-googles-his-way-to-new-cancer-testing-method.html

The article above demonstrates that online education is possible and great advancements can be made by ordinary people using current communication technologies.

College, which is so costly today, may not necessarily be the avenue that people will use in the future to obtain an education. Even today, 4 years spent at a typical college to gain a simple BA or MA education is completely unnecessary, because such education is freely available online.

What we can't get online is the actual diploma that comes with attending an undergraduate college. But, there are some places on line where money can buy such a diploma.

The young man mentioned in the article above developed a test to screen people for certain types of cancer, including lung cancer that is just as simple to apply as a home pregnancy test. For a few dollars a year, an individual can test themselves for cancer daily. He state he could not have accomplished this feat without Goggling the Web for the information he needed to develop the test.

Today, common people with intense interest in such things as Genetic Engineering, are creating their own home labs and doing viable research in a field, usually consider the domain of PhD's with huge corporate funding.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6kmb16zSOY

in Mechio Kaku's video (above) about technology in the next 20 years, he states and implies, tools are being developed today that will make research so cheap, everyone could have a home laboratory. "Your toilet will tell you if you have a tumor in your body". Computers will be so cheap you can weave them into the fabric of your window curtains, clothing and wall paper.

I have learned from this discussion that education is free and in most democratic countries, freely available to the public but, a piece of paper which verifies this fact can cost a lot of money.

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    Aug 23 2012: I am sure that there must be a way to accomplish this. Perhaps if the school was along the lines of a liberal arts school. The classes would be limited to the core subjects. Minimal facilities; Minimal staffing; Minimal administration; Bare bones. A degree would be awarded at the end of course and then you would progress to university for specific and/or further studies. University would be based roughly on the same lines that we know today. Ergo colleges free and universities at cost. The costs now applied to state schools would easily fund this system and would be diverted from universities.

    Further, that the US schools are costly does not equate that the government and the citizens do not value education. That is a giant and unfounded leap. However, I agree that the cost of education is directly related to the "poor management" of the institution. Schools recieve funding from many sources and are never in the black. The taxpayers not only pay for the institution but must also additionally pay for their child to attend. That cost rises every year. I have suggested to my legislators that the schools should be audited, that the state allotment should be a set amount, and the school should operate within that budget. State universities and the government in general believe that the bucket is endless and have no responsibility to operate within their limits.

    This is certainly a broad brush approach but considers the idea of affordable education to the college level.

    All the best. Bob.
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      Aug 23 2012: I agree entirely "that the US schools are costly does not equate that the government and the citizens do not value education." One would need to be quite distant from school operations to believe this.
      One would also have to be quite distant from the practice of school-based teaching and learning to hold the misconception that those involved in educating kids do not understand that kids are born loving to learn or that critical thinking and cognitive development are central in the teacher's mission.
      Reading and writing as well as numerical literacy are among the important goals of schooling as well as are developing the skills and dispositions to learn independently.But in popular culture people love to believe that these well understood truths are secret from educators or resisted by them and only understood by non-educators. It's an interesting, if sad, cultural phenomenon, i think.
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        Aug 23 2012: The parents that the teacher needs to talk to do not come to meetings or open houses. These are the ones who go to the board, super, principal with complaints without facts. The other cultural event that needs evaluation is that the textbook multi-billion dollar industry is the major influence in education not the instructor. Schools are handicaped by federal and state regulations and mandates.

        Teachers are dedicated professionals that do their best with the students with one hand and fight the demons that interfere with the learning process with the other hand. They walk a tightrope in a wind storm.

        The really bad teachers make the news often ... as they are on the way to jail. The media does not cover the lack of funds, resources, out of date facilities, and poor management at all levels. We hear about the students who shoot the place up ... but not the student who made medical breakthroughs. I admire TED for the talks that some of these students made. I was impressed.

        Here I am preaching to the choir. I am passionate about education and am involved. I appreciate your posts. Thanks.

        All the best. Bob.
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          Aug 23 2012: At inner city schools, it makes a big difference to provide translaters and on-site free daycare for parent nights.

          I know you are involved. In this area like in so many, we miss having a chance to make progress when our definition of the problem is incorrect because people are largely uninformed of what is really going on but are confident they know.

          Here we have strayed from the topic of the cost of offering free university education, but I think we are on point on the issue that the citizenry and other residents care deeply about the education of our children.

          The sentiment may be less strong supporting universal college education, though I believe a large proportion of the population wants a college education for their own children.
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    Aug 23 2012: I was subjected to school prayer and saluting the flag throughout the entire time I attend school. I believe in Super Alien Scientists more than in a omnipresent God.

    If someones "fact based" ideals are so easily eroded by prayer, that has to say something about facts being the complete foundation of someone's belief system.

    When we meet one another we shake hands etc. This is totally unnecessary but we practice it daily and it is also taught in school along with, how to properly answer a phone, how to apply sympathy, why we should be responsible citizens; Mannerisms.

    Because of my age I was there when prayer was taken out of schools. I was privy to the discussions and reasoning's. It was removed because it was not constitutional -end of story. Wither children are allowed to pray in school is of no concern to me. If they are forced, it is a conflict for me and demands my attention.

    If it can't be conducted in a manner that takes into consideration everyone's feelings and belief system (which was the case in that debate), then it should not be allowed. Prayer is allowed in some schools, mostly private schools and it does not appear to do any harm to anyone. Just as many students become Atheists as continue to be spiritual. Not all who pray are spiritual, they just like the ritual of it all and there is no harm in that either.

    In my reply to your post, I was centering on why "some" people in the GOP have this "FEAR" about them when they take a hard stance to things like Prayer in school and wanting to introduce curriculum that reenforces their faith based beliefs, not that prayer causes harm or should be allowed in school.

    If you live a faith based life and believe, it is your belief system that is being attacked and eroded by the public school system, it's a natural thing to become fearful of the ideals that are being forced upon you. If God were to appear on CNN tomorrow night I assure you, Prayer would surely be a practice in the school system. :)
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    Gail .

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    Aug 23 2012: Prayer really does do a lot of harm to those who dont' believe in God. And what's the big deal anyhow. Will prayers not last from the breakfast table to the end of the school day? Will the hour between breakfast and prayer diminish the prayer that much? If so, is it really valuable? And if it is not, why harm others who worship other gods. It doesn't harm the atheists because they just laugh at the pray-ers. Imagine if you were forced to say a prayer to Vishnu or Gaia or even Satan? Would you believe that you are being harmed?

    If your faith based ideals are that easily eroded, then you must ask yourself how legitimate they are. My values do not erode because they are fact-based rather than faith-based. But that's another discussion.

    by the way, I'm no liberal. I'm a strict constitutionalist - believing that it should be understood according to the intents of the ratifiers. The constitution is like a goal post. It should be fixed into place and not moved around by both Dems & Reps intent on keeping government in power over you. That means that I'm no longer welcome in either the Republican or Democratic parties (though if Ron Paul were running, I'd vote for him)
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    Aug 23 2012: When an individual pays for something, they shop, they compare quality, and prices. When society pays for something, an individual merely consumes it... without thought. I think our college education costs more money, because we value education more than most other countries do... Or, we did until recently.
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      Aug 23 2012: It appears, recently, that shoppers are withholding their money because retail sales are declining. Perhaps consumers are more particular what they purchase these days. A few years ago, in the hundreds of blogs that inhabited the Internet, we issued a rallying call for everyone to "Keep your money in your pocket". I think it had an effect on consumer behavior.

      Society is the cumulative habits of all it's citizens so it can't be put to the side like some entity, uniquely defined in a political fashion.

      In the end, it is the availability of the money supply that determines how freely we are with our money. Currently that supply appears contracted in the large and centered in the small. As the availability of money ebbs and flows, so does the activity where we openly put our dollars where are hearts dwell.

      In my home, if we can't afford to send one of our very smart members to college, we seek alternatives and there are many offered in the USA. But it is true that these opportunities do appear to be drying up.

      I passed high school, went to college and acquired my education from books, actively emailing and (in the old days) mailing people with questions when I got bogged down. I believe I am highly educated in many areas of Science and Math as well as Engineering and Computer technology, having worked in all those fields.

      In the long run, when compared to capitalistic countries, our cost for a college education appear less. It's very expensive in England for the grandest of schools, Cambridge but as it is here, there are other opportunities.

      It's surprising to learn that many of the patents that have lead to major manufacturing technologies or creation of products were discovered and refined in home workshops, not in corporate research labs.

      Many of these armature scientist and engineers educated themselves with resources freely available at the library or in community colleges.

      Education in America is free. Degrees cost money.
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    Gail .

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    Aug 23 2012: Do American leaders and/or citizens place a value on education?

    Just look at the Texas GOP platform:
    "Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

    So the GOP does not want its children to learn about things like evolution or quantum physics or other things that can cause a student to question the beliefs that parents want a child to have. It doesn't want education to be "Knowledge Based". It openly intends to make it "Faith based". Is that really education? But look at how many Texans will vote republican in spite of it.

    By the way - OBE means that they are against students being required to have mastery of a subject before going on to the next level.
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      Aug 23 2012: It's a good thing we a have a private sector in our country. They tend to be particular of the quality of their engineers and mathematicians.

      The GOP is composed of a variety of personalities. Those in the middle and leaning a bit to the left, don't have the millions of dollars to make their opinions known to the country proper. So, we don't hear from them very much. They are the true silent majority, believing in the rights of the individual over government intervention in private affairs. Believing in the right of an individual to rise to the level of their abilities and not be limited by government intervention. They expound on matters of faith because they have seen prayer taken out of the school system (where it did little harm at all) and fear further erosion of their faith based ideals. The key thought here is "FEAR".

      They are like their kin on the left who lean a bit to the right, who share more in common than in difference.
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    Gail .

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    Aug 23 2012: The mission statement of the U. S. Dept of Education says that it exists to prepare students for global competition. Think for a minute about what that means. It means that the US DoE is a corporate subsidy that exists to promote the opposite of education. It means that it doesn't exist to promote "education" or the ability of citizens to run a government of, by, and for the people. It fractures learning fields into little disconnected boxes so that only those who break out of the indoctrination can see the solution, but those people will be laughed at and rendered impotent. This is all sustained by the most abominable economic model to exist in all of recorded history.

    While teachers are asking for more money and smaller class size, non-teachers are looking at education. They have discovered that children have a built in drive to learn, and that if you give them a computer and a few questions, and put them in small groups that are allowed to talk with one-another, they will have something like photographic memory of what they see on the screens in front of them.

    Other non-teachers are discovering that cognitive thinking skills are being squelched by formal education, and that those who have developed even a minimal amount of cognitive thinking skills are no longer motivated by money - which again makes them a threat to those who now own your government.

    There are a FEW educators who are asking questions:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/daphne_koller_what_we_re_learning_from_online_education.html
    http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms.html
    http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html
    http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html
    http://www.ted.com/talks/charles_leadbeater_on_education.html

    There should be universal peer reviewed and evidence based and critically reviewed FREE on-line classes to cover any human of any age. It would cost little if people volunteered.

    IT'S ABOUT ECONOMICS NOT LEARNING
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      Aug 23 2012: I think kids can learn a lot from videos. By setting the scale on a photo correctly you can measure the speed and acceleration of an object in the video moving under the force of gravity and determine the the acceleration is approximately 9.8 meters per sec/per sec.

      You can slow down the video and see how butterflies fly, how birds soar, how frogs capture their prey, how flowers bloom over time, how fruit is grown over time. It opens an opportunity for the mind to comprehend natural phenomena in a way not possible by any other means.

      I think we can just put the videos, lecture notes, reading material and set up an email or live chat area where problems can be discussed. Even lab work can be done online with the proper software. I am a fan of Nurde Rage and practice his chemistry experiments at home all the time. It's fun to separate chemical elements from one another. It give one a sense of pride.

      I believe that a college education can be accomplished without adding very much more capital into the mix. One real big issue is patent infringements standing in the way of presenting some educational materials outside the classroom (proper), which need to be dealt with.

      You can't squelch cognitive thinking skills under the constitution we have in our country. If you try, some convenience store clerk will take the matter to the Supreme Court. Such is the strength offered to common citizens of our country. Such is the protection offered by our Laws.

      We can only feel sad about those who give up and offer them our hand. But in the end we must continue to live.
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        Gail .

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        Aug 23 2012: You apparently didn't watch the videos.
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          Aug 23 2012: Not yet but I will after this post. I'm babysitting my two year old granddaughter right now. She's a handful. :)

          Daphne Koller: What we're learning from online education:

          Extremely exciting video. It ignites the mind with the possibility that world wide education is not just desired, but very possible with the technology we have at present. It is a low cost technology that generates results that are superior to any other general application that applies knowledge and technique to increase learning. Loved it. :)

          Ken Robinson: Changing education paradigms I would suggest people watch this video first before the others listed by TED Lover in Lover's post.

          Sugat Mitra: Learning is a self-organizing system where learning is a phenomena. Very interesting and drives one to seek more answers.
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    Aug 23 2012: John, here is my gambit to move the thread back to the question that is central to your interests.

    You asked why university in the US has such a high cost. David offered that the many public universities tend to be, according to his data, maybe 20% or less of the cost of the most famous private schools.

    I think those with the best reputations may be more like 40% of the cost.

    The public universities are subsidized but less so as state budgets get tight in all areas, including education. It's quite the balancing act for states to allocate resources among the things they value highly.
    For example, the state of California spends 29% of its total state budget on k12 education.
    They have the highest number of people who receive welfare/income support payments of any state.The State of Washington spends 26% of its budget on education. I think this includes k-university.
    In terms of why education is costly to provide, there are salaries for professors, teaching staffs, and support personnel, including counselors and advisors. There are costs of maintaining facilitiies, such as buildings, libraries, laboratories, and computer centers.

    Costs are covered by tuition but also by the endowments gifted to these universities by alumni and philanthropists. I believe that these gifts from alumni explain the superb financial aid some of these universities offer so that qualified applicants from poor families pay nothing.

    The federal governments provides its support, I believe, mainly in the form of financial aid for students and funding for research.

    This is al I know about university financial stuff.
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    Aug 22 2012: You get what you pay for, it's really that simple. Some college degrees in America are very cheap, some are not. Usually the more expensive degrees come with larger offices. Our universities are universally respected as some of the best in the world... at least, the expensive ones are.
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      Aug 22 2012: Those are the ones who come with legacies and social networks so I agree with David's assessment here. However, they do not actually come with a truly superior education. Heart cannot be bought.
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        Aug 22 2012: Theoretically, they do though... We should do a better job of making theory practice, but in general, it doesn't work out so bad. Because of legacy, and social network, major universities, have guest lecturers, and even full time faculty, who are celebrities in their own right, and worth millions on the open market.

        Having a truly great film maker teach you film theory, can be a truly superior experience. Having a master architect who designed skyscrapers in New York teach you "Engineering Required for Architecture", can be amazing... Too often some of the ivy leagues do skate a bit however, and they teach poli sci and economics in an incredibly biased manner... of course.
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          Aug 22 2012: Which ivy leagues would you say "skate" and teach these subjects in a biased manner?
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          Aug 22 2012: The University of Waterloo in Canada has a Chair that Stephen Hawkins occupies. I do not think it gets much bettter than that.

          Addition: I am not sure I AM right about this. I have to seek out confirmation.
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        Aug 22 2012: Debra, how are you judging the quality of the education you receive?
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          Aug 22 2012: Fritzie, I think that I am one of the few here who has masters from both systems.
          The question asks specifically about cost.
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        Aug 22 2012: Debra, I was refering to your writing "they do not actually come with a truly superior education."
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          Aug 23 2012: Please see my entry below. I beat most of their students in head to head competition in my own field in the GREs. I know you are deeply invested in this and i have no wish to challenge you here, Fritzie.
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        Aug 22 2012: The questions is why does a college education cost so much in the United States and (secondary) why can't we have free college education in the US. My apologies if I've confused the issue. Perhaps I should delete and start over?
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          Aug 23 2012: PLEASE do not, we are an amiable bunch who always adapt and never expect perfection of anyone. It is more than fine.
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        Aug 22 2012: Wouldn't you agree that one of the easiest ways to attract top tier talent, is to pay better than the competition?

        I believe Harvard and Yale are perfect examples of private institutions that have skated, just a bit. It is very common knowledge now that with the right money, you can get into either institution, with a C average, as George Bush did. Legacy, and wealth are taken too seriously there. No one gets into University of California at Berkeley with a 2.0.

        Also, and this is my opinion... the private institutions in the US teach law, through a lens of relativism, where the best lawyer, is the one who can win the most difficult cases... not the one with ethical practices. They teach marketing through a lens, of "I could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman with white gloves", in other words placement, and psychology matter more than product. They also teach economics from the perspective that "Henry Ford was wrong", and investing in paying more than standard wages, to produce loyalty is "irrational".
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      Aug 22 2012: According to The US News: http://www.usnews.com/education/worlds-best-universities-rankings/top-400-universities-in-the-world

      The top ranking University is Cambridge in the UK. Cost is about 95k (US) per year for science related courses and 32k(US) for business related.

      Number two on the list is Harvard (United States)

      Harvard uses a sliding scale but full cost for the well heeled is around 50k (US)

      Of the top ten Universities in the world, by ranking, only six are in the US. The others are in the UK.

      The average annual tuition (plus expenses) at a private nonprofit four-year college in the US is around $35,000 (US).

      In the US, the top 5 Universities, by ranking, are:
      Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, CIT.

      "You get what you pay for, it's really that simple." ~David Hamilton.
      So, David, you are implying that if we had free college education in the US we would only be able to produce uneducated students?
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        Aug 22 2012: Only 6 of the top 10... In the world, are in a country with 6% of the worlds population?... Only?

        The average annual tuition at a public university, of which there are many, near every major city in the country, is less than ten thousand dollars a year.
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          Aug 22 2012: Yes David. With only 6% of the worlds population, that does appear to be the "current" situation.

          Many Universities, Harvard among them, use some type of sliding scale to bring down the cost to "some" students.
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        Aug 22 2012: Who paid for that study? What is its source?. It says nothing until we understand more about it.

        US NEWS? What other result was even possilble?. Did they sample the rest of the world? When I got my scholarship for a PhD in Psych, U of T was close to the world's top for my field and I also got into Guelph which was TOP for IO.
        I did not know how to understand those rankings either.

        But one great equalizer was the world wide GREs, which is scored against norms over decades of testing and I scored at about the 97th percentile after coming out of an obscure Canadian university.
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        Aug 22 2012: George Bush was a Yale undergrad and, if I am not mistaken, was at the bottom of his undergraduate class. One person is not a good basis for evaluating a school.

        Harvard has outstanding financial aid. It is free, in fact, for students qualified for admission with family income below $60,000. Princeton also has terrific financial aid.

        They want outstanding students, regardless of ability to pay.

        David is correct that there are many public universities in the United States, which are much less expensive for students who reside in that state. There are also community colleges where one can finish the first two years at half the price of a state school.

        The public universities are tax subsidized, though they are getting more expensive as state budgets get tight. In the 1970s the University of California (Berkeley, UCLA... ) costs $636 per year in undergraduate tuition and one could room and board there for $700 a year.

        Some of these public universities are world class by any measure.
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          Aug 23 2012: I will correct this. Fritzie, Actually (it's purely my fault) My motive was to ask why we can't have free college education in the US. I feel I've opened a can of worms and everyone will be bashing each other over the head with their diplomas. What do you suggest?
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        Aug 23 2012: In a theoretically well run university system... The university with the most money, would attract the most talent. Mistakes happen. Poor choices are made. This doesn't change the fact that having a top tier option that costs an insane amount of money, should be a win for society.
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        Aug 23 2012: John, I think we just need to refocus. David's information about public universities is relevant. Most claims about who can get into various schools now and how good they are are difficult to support with evidence, I think, and therefore are subject to a great deal of bias and speculation.
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          Aug 23 2012: Fritzie, I agree. I would hate to lose all this, very relevant data. I have corrected the question anyway, with apologies. If anyone wants to use the edit or delete key, it is there.