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April 13, 2018 at 8:22 am

Vedder in Forbes: ‘The Case Against Free College Tuition’

Dr. Richard Vedder, portrait

Dr. Richard Vedder

Dr. Richard Vedder, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics at Ohio University, authored a Forbes column headlined “The Case Against Free College Tuition.”

Two highly contradictory happenings have occurred over the past year. On the one hand, published research increasingly suggests that the high returns on investments in higher education are minimally exaggerated (my argument in a forthcoming book) and often even non-existent (Bryan Caplan’s point in his new The Case Against Education). The private personal gains from college do not reflect much vocationally relevant learning, but rather diplomas tell employers that recipients are smarter, more disciplined, more motivated workers for reasons unrelated to college skill acquisition. This research suggests that we are over-invested in universities, and that public subsidies for colleges have a relatively low rate of return for the broader society.

The second contradictory trend is a growing movement to encourage attendance by making college “free.” States such as New York, Oregon and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Tennessee, have embraced the concept of free tuition for community college attendance. The newly elected New Jersey governor Phil Murphy has enthusiastically embraced the idea, first prompted most conspicuously by Bernie Sanders, to be financed in New Jersey by raising taxes on affluent residents, with the top rate on the income tax going to 10.75% from 8.97%, as well as increasing the sales tax.

Read his column in Forbes.

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