People who grow up in wealthy families naturally find themselves on a college track that seamlessly routes them to elite schools when they're 18 years old.
People who grow up in poverty aren't on that track and might not even have much agency (due to their circumstances, requirements to work young, entanglements with the law) until they're in their 20s.
The fastest growing stable white collar jobs all require a 4-year degree. Even if college were free, people of reduced means wouldn't have equal access to it, because taking 4 years off the workforce isn't an option for most people. Meanwhile: a 4-year degree has actually not much value in predicting one's ability to perform as e.g. an HR director.
So what I'm suggesting is the startup that finds a way to turn smart, enterprising 24 year olds working in retail jobs into HR directors, credibly enough that they'll be competitive with Russian Lit majors.
(I'm not picking on Russian Lit; it's just, that's the undergrad degree my sister got at UChicago before becoming a lawyer, so it's the first one that pops into my head).
Please don't discount free education as "not changing much", in the US I would be probably working at Mc Donalds or dealing crack and in jail.
For a BA, MA, etc, the goal shouldn't be a job, but the pursuit of knowledge. Part of that is the value in knowledge itself, but it also gives you a broader skill set that can be applied to many kinds of jobs, where a technical degree is much more specialized.
On the other hand the public has an interest in liberally educated neighbors and voters.
Is this really the case? Sure for identical education free is better than non-free, but I know even in software development if you're applying for jobs in the US and your degree is from Poland there are places that won't interview you, let alone hire you.
The US poverty line is about 15k for a two-person family. That would mean that earning that much would make 1-3 years of family income in debt.
In the case of education this is not the case; the federal government provides (or backstops) the loans.
I have a twin sister whom was better at saving than I. When it came time to apply for FAFSA loans, she had $2k in the bank and I didn't. She qualified for exactly $2k less in loans than I did.
This is what always irked me about how the bailouts were handled. They should have been controlled government regulated destructors that would tear off and re-attach resources that were viable to other companies and leave the investors with none of their investment.
People on HN may ridicule them for being stuck in an optimization for a terribly low local maximum, but the danger of feeling "rich" on a fat loan is real: "if it's ok to burn through a decade worth of low wages to get to where I can easily pay it pack, what difference does it make if I burn through a few years more?" Valuing debtlessness is the established safeguard against that and going deep to exit high would be perceived as close to amoral by their peers.
- people studying for 10 years just to extend the childhood. (government pay 15k a year to the uni)
- some Unis accept people just to get money off of the government (accepted 500, graduate 100)
- lack of quality due to poor funding
Uni should not be free, but cheap. (50% of yearly median salary)
Note: in Spain it is expected to fail some subjects in Engineering
I do agree with you in principle about the HR director thing. College is treated too much like a white collar vocational school.
HR still prefers somebody who went through the trouble of getting the paper as it signals putting the effort in.
Now many jobs that previosly didn't need university education have such applicants and it becomes more mandatory to get one in order to compete. And why would you not, it is free after all.
In the end more people get higher education. it won't necessary help you getting a better job but I think it is good for society anyway.
For many others this "useless over education" is one of the reasons to introduce fees to schools. To make vocational studies worth more again and force people to think education more like an investment.
Why do you equate poverty with inevitable entanglements with the law?
In my experience, those of us who had to work (formally employed) young are less likely to have entanglements with the law, as one natural result of spending time working is having less idle time in which to get into trouble.