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WARNING: This is a completely non-political article. If you’re looking to start a political argument, look elsewhere.

But if you’re looking for the purely educational and economical truth, then read on…

Should college be free? It’s a question that’s back in the news again, as NY Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his plan to make certain students accepted into NY State schools eligible for free tuition.

On it’s face, it might seem like a good thing. I mean, why not? Student loan debt has topped $1.3 trillion in the U.S.  It’s gotten to the point where it’s holding back our economy in a number of surprising ways.

We all want to alleviate this burden…so couldn’t this be the solution?

Sadly, it isn’t.

(And this is coming from people whose mission is to make college more affordable and purposeful for students!)

Let’s start by debunking the notion of “free” here. See, under these kinds of plans, college isn’t really free. These plans cover tuition, but do nothing to help with room, board and books (which can cost as much or more than tuition itself).

And these plans are only talking about public state schools–not private two- and four-year institutions (that outnumber our nation’s public state schools by about 800!).

And to add one more piece to the puzzle the money has to come from somewhere. It’s estimated that the New York plan probably affect about 200,000 students and cost tax-payers around $163 million.

But, for argument’s sake, let’s say the room, board, books, and tax dollars are all non-factors. (In truth, they’re small tactical matters–especially when it comes to the greater good).

Why, then, shouldn’t college be free for the greater good?

Because it truly (again, sadly) wouldn’t be for the greater good. It could have the opposite affect.

You see, college is an asset. Higher education is an asset. And like any asset, there is inherent value.

Whether we’re talking about a degree from a four-year public, four-year private, two year technical, community or trade school, this is an asset that will yield you a better future and earning potential in the world. And there’s value to that. So, we should be paying for that. (Not to the tune of $40-$60k/year! But more on that later…)

Right now, the average community college degree is about $5k/year–yielding an average starting salary of $40-$50k/year! There’s value to that. That’s a heck of a return on investment!

Especially because, as we look at the world of work, the need for technical degrees is exploding. This includes technicians…associates degreed workers……skilled workers…basically, people who can do things with their hands.

See, we are running out of people who know how to do these kinds of jobs…and, if you’ve hired an electrician or plumber recently, you know that they’re rates are going up. (Hint: it’s due to lack of competition.)

Yet, the majority of Americans still think a traditional four-year college is always the way to go (and in many cases, it is! Just not in all cases). So they’re willing to pay for these four-year degrees, to the tune of $80-$240k over four years, to earn average salaries equal to those who spent $10k total on a technical or associates degree.

Now, don’t get us wrong. All degrees are valuable–to the extent that they’re yielding a good return on investment. But to take away the cost would be to take away the value.

What would we create to then be next when it came to hiring qualifications? Where would we go from there? With what would we replace the four-year degree’s value?

This is not going to solve the problem of student loan debt.

Now, as we said, higher education should definitely not cost $80-$240k for four years. There is no bachelor’s degree in the country worth that.

So what can be done to solve this problem? The answer is YOU can start now.

YOU, as a consumer, have the power to make smart decisions for your family.

YOU are empowered to research, understand, and buy college for the proper return on investment–creating a generation of successful new adults whose skills match our new economy and aren’t hindered by the extreme financial burden of debt.

Be empowered. Know that you have options. And work those options.  

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