Why the European model of education doesn’t make sense in the United States

A lot of liberals my age, or any age for that matter, like to talk about parts of a socialist fallacy Utopia, this place where the government pays for everything and everyone is skinny, attractive, and rich (Like Sweden, they say).

Ok, they don’t really talk about an attractive population, but you get the point.

I’ve mentioned the highly-publicized list of demands from the Occupy Wall Street crazies folks was “not official,” but there’s one that has been a nonetheless popular part of many ultra-leftist agendas.

Free college education.

They say, “Look at Europe, they give away health care and education and everything is so great.”

The reality with health care certainly isn’t that simple, like the lengthy waiting lists in Canada, or the odd rules like in this highly publicized case where the National Health Service in Britain would not allow a woman to pay out of her own pocket for additional treatment for cancer that could have saved her life.

Plus, if she dies, the government is off the hook for her medical bills (You don’t think there’s a government bureaucrat counting every penny and how it’s being spent?).

Moreover, comparisons between the United States and any other country really don’t work. European countries have the luxury of much more homogenous populations and climates, not to mention smaller geographic communities.

Put another way, the United States government has to serve a more diverse set of constituents than perhaps any other country in world history.

I can make a similar argument for health care, but let’s take education since the profitability side of health care is an entirely different issue, and one that faces an equally diverse set of obstacles.

France, for example, provides education to its citizens. There are more than 80 post-secondary institutions in France to provide for a population of just under 67 million people.

According to distance-education.org, about 1 million French citizens are enrolled in post-secondary education, only about 1.6% of the population.

On the other hand, in 2009, the United States had 20.4 million students enrolled in degree-granted post-secondary education (not to mention another nearly 500,000 in non-degree granting institutions) according to the National Center fo Education Statistics.

That means a U.S. population that is roughly 5 times greater than that of France has a post-secondary population 20 times greater.

Even accounting for population age, the United States educates a considerably larger portion of its population on a relative basis.

So what if the United States paid for everyone? Well, slow down.

The average student leaves school with $20,400 in debt. What if the United States government just paid off your debts once you left.

For 20 million people a year and growing, that means the government would owes colleges $490 billion and that’s with students already paying part of the way. Annually. $500 billion gone so people like me can get a philosophy degree.

Total student debt in 2010 was more than $880 billion according to an MSNBC report.

That’s about 6% of our total deficit, not to mention the billions in state and federal subsidies already being spent on college.

Is college expensive? Yes, absolutely. It’s also not for everyone. While being in poverty shouldn’t necessarily exclude one from being able to attend, that’s why we have merit scholarship, not to mention a federal body created to administer aid to those who need it (FAFSA).

Rich people don’t get aid to go to college unless they earn a scholarship through merit or athletics. Following the liberal taxing model, the people who can afford to pay more should pay more and everyone else should pay nothing.

(It would be like a commie liberal to say that since they can afford it, they should still pay full price).

That’s not quite how college works, but it’s close. FAFSA will provide certain dollars based on income while your ability to pay at a given school is based on tuition costs. So, a family making $60,000 presumably needs less money to send their student to a $15,000 per year school than a $40,000 per year school (although these things can be negotiated with the individual schools).

Some schools have more money to give away and that money is easier to get certain places than it is others. In public systems, there is no competition among schools to raise more money for scholarships or compete for the best professors to receive the highest rankings (and in turn charge more for tuition).

This progressive system of paying what you can afford is decidedly liberal. On the other hand, the student to student competition and school to school competition, coupled with the celebration of individual accomplishments and hard work is equally conservative.

Ok, everyone pay what they can afford unless you work hard enough to earn a scholarship. Seems like an agreeable mix of liberal and conservative.

You know who can’t  afford to pay for college? A government $15 trillion in debt and growing.


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