Should Higher Education Be Free?

Max Page:

Andrew Delbanco effectively describes the tragedy that is unfolding at American universities: after a generation of expanding of opportunity, both private and public colleges are increasingly out of reach of the lower classes [“The Universities in Trouble,” NYR, May 14]. Unfortunately, Delbanco avoids the solution that is sitting right before him: free higher education. That’s the way most of the civilized world deals with the cost of higher education. And we have past and present examples in our own nation of providing free higher education–the GI Bill, CUNY, California’s community colleges, Georgia’s HOPE scholarships. My father went from immigrant to soldier to Ph.D. in the space of a decade, thanks to the GI Bill.
Would this be insanely expensive? The total cost of sending every single public university undergraduate to college for a year (that group makes up 75 percent of the total college enrollment) was $39.36 billion in 2006-2007. That’s not chicken feed, but it’s less than the bailout amount for two large banks, or the cost of three or four months in Iraq.