- Apr 10, 2014
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Mike: I'm always cautious when using the word "free" because the term seldom has a common understanding amongst readers - but last century, Australia had "free" tertiary education for a while and it was the principal cause for spawning a plethora of first time graduates from working-class families. My siblings and I were fortunate (and honored) to be among their number!
As for "limiting it only to those who actually want to strive to pursue a particular set of skills" - even if there was a process for analyzing a student's intent for entering a university - I'm not sure that it's the role of educational institutions to do this. And notwithstanding my foreigner status, particularly in a litigious country like America - I'm not sure that these institutions would take-on this accountability (or does America need another reason to further line the pockets of litigators?)
Rather than focusing on student's intent for entering universities, a more achievable and far better metric IMO is assessing the student's scholastic abilities as a rough surrogate for their capacity to complete studies. Of course, a student's academic prowess (which most definitely is not their IQ) does not equate to their willingness to apply those abilities to studies - but it is a not unreasonable decider for university entry IMO. No problem with the risk of an avalanche of unworthy students because the pass-level for entrance examinations can be tailored to the number of available places. And no problem with accusations about ethnic, or wealth discrimination because everyone is dispassionately treated the same (thereby aligning with your Mr Jefferson's credo)!
Apart from a will of citizens to do it (thru their votes) -one of the reasons why "free" (there's that word again) university was achievable in Australia for a time was the fact that the tertiary institutions were owned and they were directly funded by Government (yes, it was rather socialist in nature - but certainly not in name). So it was simply a case of diverting a greater portion of the tax purse to this new initiative. Not sure that it would be quite this easy for America's education model?
I don't think we're really disagreeing here Don. As I said, there does need to be a way to determine both ability, as well as dedication. If a student is barely passing throughout highschool but gets a 1550 on the SAT exam (scores range from 400-1600), then that's a red flag that the individual is not going to apply themselves. And of course, I don't believe it should be free but rather subsidized. Perhaps to a greater degree if the student gets better marks. That way students have motivation to perform and not squander what is given to them, but if they do, then it falls more on their shoulders rather than taxpayers.