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There's at least one pretty fool proof way to defeat this specific kind of fraud. Give tuition waivers rather than grants.

Or, of course, just charge less. I went to LA City 20 years ago. Had a bad experience unrelated to school itself at the first four-year I tried to attend and had to drop out. My parents couldn't actually afford to send me back, but the reported income was still over the threshold to get me enough aid to afford a four-year. So I started at a community college. It was $9 per credit hour at that point. Financial aid was not necessary. I just worked an overnight shift detailing the restrooms at Knott's Berry Farm theme park.

I had a fun situation where my university lecturer told me "Myself and other lecturers also work at the local community college teaching the same subjects, it costs $100 per semester there and you can transfer the credit across."

So for at least the first year of university i spent almost nothing on tuition. Which was nice for someone who was really struggling back then.

Community College was the best decision I ever made. Not only did it cost next to nothing, relieving a massive amount of financial pressure, but it took me, a mediocre high school student, and gave me the time and training necessary to build study habits and grades that allowed me to transfer to one of the top engineering schools in the country.

The only downside of Community College is that it is not the same "college experience" that you get with University, which I can understand is huge for many. I did to an extent make up for it my junior and senior year after I transferred, but it's not the same.

True, but that’s probably an upside. The “freshman experience” is many things, but it’s NOT an easy environment to learn basic study skills if you missed that in high school.

I thought Community College was great too.

It was my four year college, I thought it was a joke, and upper division class worse. I once had a accounting teacher sit at the front of the room, and read the text book word for word. He did tell us class participation was not expected.

That said, going to a community college can be depressing.

Something like 90% do not finish their General Education courses, and don't transfer to a four year. They just drop out.

FWIW, I had that college experience, and it was fun, but definitely not worth the cost of admission. On the other hand, junior/senior year at college was fantastic and really formative. So imho you got the best of both worlds.

I think this college experience is really a PR thing. It's what you pay the most for and it is more entertainment than anything else.

Most countries' universities seem to work like the community college: it's near your high school, you go there and just study, the dorms for people from other cities are just cheap flat in the surrounding area, and you try to make your campus as small and focused on study as possible.

At least that's how it was in France, and my memories or universities are full of technical discoveries, amazing teachers and passionate friends. Not lifestyle changes, but intellectual ones.

The drinking games and parties, they stated at 16 and felt not very different at uni, just normal part of youth.

Yes, from the US side, I agree entirely. I think it relates to our Puritanical heritage. Parties / drinking are illicit, and most Americans live with their parents and kept in a sort of forced continued adolescence / stunted adulthood, until they “go off to school,” where they suddenly are free to do whatever they like.

And so there is an explosion of exploration, and only some of it is intellectual.

Echo your experience. Went to community college due to overall mediocre aggregate high school grades (but good in 10,11,12). Received 4.0 GPA my first semester and was able to transfer into my dream school after 1 year with a tremendous scholarship that when it's all said and done will have saved me 40k+ in student loan debt.

No regrets at all and am grateful for the opportunity to rebound from a lousy HS freshmen year and still do well for myself.

I discovered the strategy of testing out of subjects at the community college then transferring the credit to my university. This worked for many courses for which the university offered no credit by exam.

I've never understood why I encountered so much resistance to the concept of testing out of subjects during my academic career. I would have even paid for the units, I just didn't get why department heads were so opposed.

The main reason, imho, is because the tests are generally bad, and the folks in charge aren’t quite sure what to do about it.

There is quite a bit of stuff that one can learn in a class that might not show up on a test. A few examples:

1. Certain small subject matter specifics that may not be measured on a relatively short timed test.

2. Discovering peer groups to study with.

3. The test structure at the university/department — some smart people get bombed early in their academic careers just because they aren’t familiar with the test type.

A well-structured series of courses can be built out assuming that each student in later courses has at least been exposed to certain ideas in earlier courses. If you test out, there is no guarantee that these learners have been exposed to those ideas. Yes, a better test could reveal all of this stuff, but making good tests or test banks is difficult and time consuming, and that assumes that there is some expertise in evaluation/testing in the department faculty (which is rare).

This conversation highlights the dichotomy of higher education in the U.S.

You're describing the quality of an education, while the previous commenters are describing how to game a title system to get the best brand. These are two different goals/outcomes.

I got by cramming for most exams & attended maybe a handful of classes a year. I did graded assignments but not homework. If my university is comfortable handing me an accredited degree in that situation, I would expect it to feel comfortable providing a path to test out.

I encountered this, too.

In my case, the teacher "forgot" to give me the final for one of them, and only gave me the mid-term. Months later, they "discovered" that and made me take it then to keep my credit.

I said, "Give me the test right now." I took it, passed with flying colors.

They still didn't look happy. I'm still half-convinced they were trying to trip me up. Their classes were the easiest I have ever taken and I got a 4.0 GPA there. I knew I was just going for the paper, though, so it didn't bother me.

Joke's on me. That paper has never actually helped me get a job. sigh

> Joke's on me. That paper has never actually helped me get a job. sigh

Knowing that, in an interview, I won't be asked why I don't have a degree, has been at least 90% of the value of mine.

It might vary by region, but here in Europe I haven't been asked that ever in my 7 years in IT.

I don't even have "Education" paragraph in my resume, just skills and experience.

In my experience, I've always learned a lot more during the class than was tested on the exam (except for intro classes). I'd personally prefer easier exams but harder assignments and projects that allow for some collaboration. If you were allowed to test out of classes then the exams would need to be made a lot harder so it includes all the material you should have learned if you took the class.

The university I went to had an option for the required math course that all students had to take--there was one "self paced" version of the class you could select. You did eveything yourself, and took all the tests for the class at your own pace. You still had to take about 6 or so tests, but you could use it to "test out." I'm not great at math, but this was basic algebra. I took all 6 tests in a row in a single day, and passed the class.

It destroys the idea that you can only get an education that meets their standards from their teaching.

To be fair, these were very much entry level classes unrelated to my major. I wasn't testing out of linear algebra or something.

Yeah. I was lucky enough to have one department head who agreed to testing out and was able to bypass two required courses. It doesn’t make much sense to require courses which the student has already mastered. Only reason is $$$.

How do you negotiate this? Go talk during some posted office hours? Beginning of semester?

yah, note that a $3-5K extension course at UCLA costs ~$300 (including registration and books!) at LACC and is often taught by the same part-time lecturer(s). it’s pretty clever geographic price discrimination though: expensive for rich westsiders who don’t wanna travel much past the 405 and cheap for the working class folk mid-city.

You could just go down the 10 to Santa Monica community college though even if you didn't want to travel. I think the extension is more about someone putting 'UCLA' on a resume or job application.

yes, SMCC is a good alternative on the westside, and yes, UCLA still has a price discrimination advantage due to its brand prestige (but 10× seems crazy to me).

...they do that because they university pays a pittance. No choice but to have as many jobs as doable, as lecturers get paid by the course unit and not a wage.

Isn't being a university lecturer a full-time job? How can they also be lecturing at another college?

They almost all have a second job.

>A 2015 survey found that 62 percent of adjuncts earned less than $20,000 a year.


Sadly, in the US, even the “tenure track” full-time professors are seldom full-time lectures. Their most valued contributions are:

- obtaining research grants

- department administration

- image management

They also sometimes teach courses, but more often than not, that duty can be given to a combination of adjunct professors and “graduate teaching assistants,” ie doctoral students.

Much of it I’m okay with organizationally except for the money/workload balance. It’s a race to the bottom to overwork and underpay for teaching duties.

It used to be, but has been trending away from that for a while.

I'm shocked no one has answered the actual question yet: because this is financial aid, not tuition coverage. Financial aid is intended to make it possible to be a student. That means a lot more than tuition. Fees. Books. Food. Rent. Clothing. Car repairs. The general feeling of financial stability that allows you to relax enough to actually learn in your time at school.

Financial aid offers so much more than tuition coverage. I don't see how any list of specific benefits could come close to doing as much for allowing a student to feel financially secure.

Yes, yes, if my tuition was 100% free I would still need to take out loans to actually attend to school. My parents sure as fuck weren't giving me a living stipend and didn't have the time to work while classes were in session so my living expenses were mostly paid for by loans.

I'm not aware of any financial aid package (outside of maybe some private loans?) that you can apply for with the intent of using that money for car repairs and have it not be fraud.

Aside from being fraud it's also incredibly stupid from a long-term financial stability standpoint. Student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy and they are there until you pay them in full. You're better off putting your car repairs on a credit card and paying a higher interest rate if the alternative is "the only way out of this $2,000 bill is that you die."

> I'm not aware of any financial aid package (outside of maybe some private loans?) that you can apply for with the intent of using that money for car repairs and have it not be fraud.

How do you think people pay rent, feed themselves, buy textbooks, etc, while in school? You just aren’t aware how financial aid works

get a part time job? take out student loans? study something (stem or law) that will actually enable them to get out of student debt?

Student loans are student financial aid. So you're saying student financial aid is in fact supposed to cover general costs of living while a student?

Student loans explicitly can’t be used for car repairs [0]. You can use it for transportation like buses and trains, rent, gas, and meal plans (but oddly not groceries and restaurants).

So students typically work jobs, use savings, get help from friends and family.

[0] https://www.salliemae.com/blog/what-to-use-student-loans-for...

Your link says no such thing and doesn't even mention car repairs. In fact it says the exact opposite

>Otherwise, use your leftover student loan money for anything you absolutely need for school.

>Ultimately, any leftover loan money is yours to use how you’d like.

This article is merely a shitty low quality advice article, these are suggestions.

How is this enforced, given that dollars are fungible?

It's not enforced because it's not true, the GP didn't read the article they posted, it's just a shitty financial advice column. Those "restrictions" are just suggestions.

> You're better off putting your car repairs on a credit card and paying a higher interest rate

What!? No!

You're willing to pay often 25% interest on a credit card on the off chance you need to file for bankruptcy?

(That is, assuming its not fraud, of course)

The most cursory Google search turns up tons of sources that say otherwise. For example[1]:

> Student loans are intended to pay for college, but education costs include more than tuition. You can also use student loans for living expenses. You’re limited to borrowing the school’s cost of attendance — that’s tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, transportation, and personal expenses —minus any aid you receive.

In other words, once you've paid tuition the balance is yours to do whatever you want/need to continue as a student, including paying rent or fixing your car. After all, barriers to poor people attending college go far beyond just the cost of tuition.

[1] https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/loans/student-loans/stude...

Not at all, you can use financial aid and student loans for living expenses and it's incredibly common to do so. How else would you pay rent and buy food if you are a full time student? Part time jobs usually don't pay nearly enough to cover all living expenses and many full time students don't work part time jobs at all.

If you're wondering how this works, financial aid and student loans are distributed to your school, tuition and fees are paid, and then you request the school distributes the rest to your bank account. I did this is college, it's totally and completely normal. No everyone's parents are willing and able to just pay for their kids living expenses.

This was a while back, but you could buy anything at our college "bookstore" and it would show up on your bursar bill and be payable by student loans. Worse, it would show up as a charge "Cornell Bookstore" so your parents didn't even know the charges weren't books.

In actuality, the bookstore had not only books but a good 700sqft of CDs (yes, this is a while ago...), clothing, memorabilia, food, junkfood, etc.

You could also have the Bursar disburse cash straight to your account for off-campus rent or food. How you spent it was up to you. Several students I know put it right into the then-roaring late-90s stock market.

Not saying this is the right thing to do, but thats how it was

It’s a thing. Source: two people I know did a grad program where the school set them up to take out 20% more in loans than needed to cover expenses and they got the 20% in cash at the start of each semester.

You are 100% wrong.

Whatever financial aid you receive is paid to you as the student, as a literal check, once the cost of attendance is paid to the institution. You can then use that money to pay for whatever you want. Some low-income students actually get paid to go to community college because of PELL and state aid packages, even without loans.

Google, "Financial Aid Refund".

Not necessarily. Plenty of students have no other legitimate credit options that allow them to not need to immediately start paying down the principal.

During my time I had to routinely apply for student loans every year to cover housing, food, and other living expenses and it made sense because unless I was doing an internship the next semester - I wouldn't be able to make any payments until I was done with school and had a full time job.

Was able to consolidate and refinance all my private loans to a variable 4.5% back in late 2019 and since then has gone to 2.48% which is now less than my mortgage interest rate. Leveraging student loans for financial flexibility opened the doors for me to live a great life during some super chaotic but fun years.

So why, then, is the money not simply paid directly to the institution, thus completely eliminating any chance the money could be used for something besides payment for educational expenses?

Have you put any thought into why that isn't the way its done?

This is how it was done for me. I’m not OP. But I didn’t have access to the money at all. It went directly to the school.

If you have a balance after the school pays itself the tuition and fees you owe them then you simply request the bursar distribute the remainder of the funds to your bank account. You then use that money to pay your living expenses.

Of course, if you bought your room and board from your college there would be little to no money leftover after tuition and fees were paid.

Source: Personal experience.

You are simply ignorant. The money is deposited into the students' account after tuition is deducted. They can do whatever they want with it.

> I'm not aware of any financial aid package (outside of maybe some private loans?) that you can apply for with the intent of using that money for car repairs and have it not be fraud.

When I was in undergrad (granted, 20+ years ago) part of my aid was a couple thousand a year in direct cash payments to me. There were no restrictions whatsoever on this money.

The GI Bill directly pays tuition and gives you a stipend meant to be used to rent and any living expenses you may have. And it's transferable to other people.

plenty of people have used financial aid money to buy crypto. To great success, I might add.

If it comes to needing to discharge your student loan debt and you’re gonna declare bankruptcy anyway, it’s fairly easy to convert some or all (depending on the amount) of it to credit card debt. In fact I did this bec I’ve just been rolling it around on 0% apr cards for the last few years, paying essentially 0% interest.

The California community college system is like a hidden Easter Egg in a state that gets a lot of bad press for high rates of homelessness, poverty, etc. Not only is tuition low, some colleges readily take underage students, they have well developed transfer agreements and you can sometimes take classes like Latin through a California community college.

It's even better -- each UC is REQUIRED to take a certain number of community college transfer students. It's not quite the case anymore, but you could apply as a freshman into the guaranteed transfer programs and be guaranteed a spot in the UC of your choice by maintaining a certain easily attainable GPA. I had a friend in high school who was a middling student get a UC Berkeley biomedical engineering degree this way. More recently the program seems way underutilized -- some recent graduates I have known did 2 years in community college and had their choice of UC Berkeley, UCLA, or anywhere else.

Using community college as a second chance to get into top programs is massively underrated. I was a mediocre high school student and was able to get good grades in community college and had no problem getting accepted to a top engineering university.

that's called the transfer admission guarantee (TAG) program, and it's a fantastic opportunity to reboot a mediocre academic record.

however TAG does not confer eligibility into a number of STEM (and STEM-adjacent, like medicine) programs within many highly competitive departments at the UC system.

For example the neuroscience programs at UCSD do not automatically accept TAG applicants, you have to be qualified by the program's own rubric regardless of securing a TAG spot for the school itself.

Yes, it seemed the G is not as guaranteed as is used to be. I had an interesting chat with a current UC Berkeley student trying to get into computer science department. They have a few classes that you need to do well in to get accepted internally. She was taking one of the classes for the third time, having dropped the course the first two times once she realized her grade was not high enough.

At Berkeley, this depends on the major. If you're accepted to the College of Letters & Sciences (which houses degrees such as Physics, CS, Math) with an intended major, you're actually undeclared when you start out.

Once you complete your lower division prerequisites passably (typically after two or so years), you can then declare your major as a CS degree.

This isn't the case for College of Engineering which houses the EECS program (while sharing the same department as CS, confusing I know), wherein admissions are more selective, but you don't need to declare your major. You also have the advantage of already being in the program, which helps with registering for courses (especially upper-division courses, which typically only have a small number of slots reserved for non-majors).

Tuition waivers, grants and student loans artificially inflate college prices. For the first two years of college most classes could be canned video and proctored exams with the exception of labs. Most colleges should be consolidated down and any receiving government money should have creative commons text books. We are overpaying for education. This isn't an attempt to lower teacher salaries, that is another topic. We need fewer general education class teachers and more field specific teachers.

Why all of this? If K-12 is paid for by the government, why not have the government pay for college education too?

Government funds university education here in Denmark. But you have to be responsible with tax payers money so the number of seats per program is determined by market demand.

I think many Americans would be offended if they woke up one day and their universities had stopped offering useless gender studies degrees.

> useless gender studies degrees.

I don't know why this is such a pervasive perspective, but it's really sad. This same logic extends to philosophy, theater, arts, psychology, sociology, and so many other disciplines. At which point, you're really just left with STEM, which seems to hint the preference is for trade schools (which do exist, but aren't favored). The loss of arts and social sciences would be a catastrophe for the academic world.

> The loss of arts and social sciences would be a catastrophe for the academic world.

But a blessing for most students who need a job to pay their student debts after graduation. Sacrificing art students by taking their tuition knowing no or too few jobs exist is unacceptable. Keeping social sciences and art departments alive should require a source of money that does not create non-dischargeanle student debts and jobless students.

That, to me, sounds like an argument for funding trade schools and raising their status in society so they're considered more often. As I understand it, a university education was never intended to be a gateway to employment, yet it became one as a byproduct of how we as a society talked about it. I was told countless times in adolescence how much of an income gap existed between those with a college degree and those that didn't have one.

Software development, for example, very much falls under a trade, else there wouldn't be so many bootcamps that both feed into the industry and simultaneously take advantage of those who don't know better. There's no prestigious trade school that I'm aware of that produces consistently competent software developers. That's just one example, but I'd love to see more trade schools supported and elevated as a path to career employment.

> As I understand it, a university education was never intended to be a gateway to employment

It also wasn't intended for middle class people of average intelligence. Consider, before WW2 only about 10% of people attended college. You either came from money or you were a rather bright person. Today it is an employment gateway. People mainly attend to "get a good job", not for the pursuit of higher knowledge and "finishing". For those of humble origins that want to use it to discover themselves or become an "intellectual", well enjoy the 100k debt while slinging lattes.

> There's no prestigious trade school that I'm aware of that produces consistently competent software developers.

MIT? At least, it was accused of being a trade school toward the beginning of its history:

> These reforms were largely a response to Walker's on-going defense of the Institute and its curriculum from outside accusations of overwork, poor writing, unapplicable skills, and status as a "mere" trade school.


These days, one might think of U Waterloo as filling the role of a prestigious trade school given the focus they put on their co-op program. Which I mean in a positive light, of course.

> The loss of arts and social sciences would be a catastrophe for the academic world.

But we need poor people to operate the machinery. They shouldn't be allowed to dream, write poetry, or do anything that we consider frivolous. The frivolous things are for the privileged to do.

Sorry. My sarcasm couldn't be contained.

They are free to do what they want. Forcing me to pay for them to do it is another matter.

You're already forced to pay for many things that you may not even know about. Do you know where every single dollar of your tax money goes?

>let them eat cake

I agree with you, but I do think it really is a problem that students disproportionately choose the "useless" degrees rather than STEM fields. I anecdotally know of many who in hindsight wish they had studied computer science or something more employable.

I would agree if the choice was binary. But it isn't. Many alumni of arts and humanities later go into professions that are not only useless, buy actually harmful to society, while not contributing to actual art and culture: Advertising, Marketing...

Personally, I found both STEM and social science classes at University to be fairly useless. I went back and took STEM classes in an area I had self-studied, based on the amount of people who claimed that people who self-study miss a lot. I didn't find that to be the case at all, and was surprised at how much the classes felt like a waste of time. Going back when I was older, I was also very curious about the education system in general and would often survey my classmates to see how much they were retaining semester to semester. The results weren't great. I should add, this was at a University that ranks fairly highly (top 20 or so) in this area.

The market might demand someone with experience in a certain field, but that doesn't mean that college is a useful way of preparing them for it.

Likewise, with the humanities I've learned much more outside of the University setting than inside of it. I never delved into primary sources or academic papers when I was an undergraduate, but often do both now that I'm out (as a hobby, not for work). I would say that I knew almost nothing about historiography coming out of college, and almost all my knowledge of it is from self-study after graduation.

People talk about the importance of discussions, but discussion groups I've had outside of university have been much more fruitful than inside - a group of people with ages ranging from teens to retirees, who've had a variety of life experiences and come from different countries is going to be a more varied discussion in my experience than a group of 19 year old college students.

I think people really have to start discussing what goals we're actually trying to achieve, if college is the best way of achieving, and what other alternatives might be available. In my experience, the college system is a pretty poor system that has survived as long as it has because of inertia.

The demand for subsidization of college education is coming from very woke academics who want more taxpayer money for their "woke programs".

College education in USA is ridiculously cheap if you are not looking at top colleges. Plenty of universities in silicon valley which can give you a wide array of useful degrees for very affordable price. Affordable = You can pay your student loans within 2 years of gainful employment post degree.

There are some very good arguments as to why government should not be paying for college education:

- Loosely speaking K-12 can be seen as a public good because of which it may make sense for the society to pay for other people's education. College education is not a public good in the same way because at any rate only few folks will go to college and it is immoral for the other people being forced to pay for college education of those kids. If college educated kids earn even more then it is even more immoral for poor people to pay for rich.

- Unlike K-12, college education involves specialization. A gender studies degree is worthless compared to say a nurse. But because education is free a lot of students might enroll in more and more worthless degrees. This will have great negative impact on productivity of US society. A lot of folks who do not have any productive skills, a lot of folks staying out of labour market in their crucial years. I will work at a local farm for a year rather than pursue some of the college degrees any days.

- When government pays for education it distorts the market. You can see it as a subsidy. But then it also means more and more worthless colleges which have more and more worthless degree programs that focus on "good life" for kids.

I always watch this video from time to time : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3-_r_t7AZU

That argument would've had a lot of weight in 1940, when only 5% or so of folks went to college, but today nearly 2/3 of high school graduates immediately enroll in some form of college. It seems reasonable to assume that, if college were free, that figure would substantially rise.

The opposite of your specialization argument also applies. It costs $20,000-$40,000 to go through nursing school. It's hugely beneficial for society to have nurses, and we have a nursing shortage. Paying for nursing school means more nurses. On the other side, personally I'm in favor of there being a lot more people who have expertise in advanced non-STEM topics. The benefits are less obvious, but a well educated populace is far more desirable than a pile of folks educated just well enough to be useful as well.

Distorting the market is a problem, but just as high schools are public, I think increasing the number of public universities and public community colleges helps that problem. If there is enough high quality public education available, there's no need to subsidize private education.

>The opposite of your specialization argument also applies. It costs $20,000-$40,000 to go through nursing school

that's covered in the video at around the 4 minute mark.

> a lot of folks staying out of labour market in their crucial years

I think companies will live if people take a little longer to enter the workforce. If the tradeoff is a more educated populace and people spending less of their life toiling away vs. corporate profits maybe having a tiny decline then it's definitely worth it.

20 years ago, if you lived in California you almost had this. I attended a CSU for around $750/semester. Price now is almost $4k/semester.

I guess we can barely pay for the present nowadays, nevermind the future.

$4k/semester is a bargain in most states.

It's hard to get a job if you don't have a high school diploma. We feel bad for people who can't get jobs, so we make it easier to get a high school diploma.

Employers are not completely stupid, they notice the high school diploma is no longer signaling competency and start demanding university degrees for pretty basic jobs. We feel bad for people who can't get jobs, so we make it easier to get a university degree. You can see where this is headed.

A better question in my mind is whether or not going to college is a good use of time.

If people are just doing it to get a job, well, why not set up and support trade schools instead?

> why not set up and support trade schools instead?

If you do that, you severely limit social/economical mobility. Is that what you want?

I hate these kinds of presumptive one-liners that are like a big Trojan horse filled with red herrings and straw men... Anyway:

Why would this limit social and economic mobility?

If it does limit social and economic mobility, does that mean our process for mobility is flawed? Does there need to be a reassessment of what is valuable in society? Are plumbers or mechanics "less valuable" than a business analyst or marketing professional? What about a hospice care worker or a grocer? Are we focusing on college degrees because of historical baggage? Should we have more courses in computer science or agriculture, or more courses in literature? More of all? Less of all?

Recall that social and economic mobility don't just go up, they go down too.

Can we look to countries like Germany that have healthy vocational and technical training programs?

And why would you think that I would want to severely limit social and economic mobility? What are you implying here? I don't get it.

How so?

One major problem today is that most bachelor's degrees are required but not sufficient for many not-particularly-socially-upward jobs. So go in debt to still not have mobility.

Why should tax payers have to pay for many degrees that are worthless (undergraduate + graduate)?

So who is going to sit in judgement of which degrees are worthwhile and which are worthless?

Ideally the market should.

The market does not know what is virtuous. It knows what individuals demand among what is offered.

So who's going to sit in judgment of what is virtuous?

Hopefully, informed people. Unfortunately I don't have a definite answer to your question but that does not make "the market" a valid one (maybe it is, though I don't think so because I don't trust people for making decision virtuous for the community through individual ones, there needs to be something more clever and functional).

Well I ask because in my mind it is simple: individuals decide for themselves what is virtuous.

Of course as a side effect this is reflected in the market, as individuals engaging in things they find virtuous are reflected in the market.

If you don't trust people to make decisions for the community, why not just let them all make decisions for themselves and nobody else? That would solve that problem, no?

For any given decision, letting individuals decide what they want does not necessarily lead to a great situation for the community. Climate change-related stuff comes to my mind. We are failing to take the right decisions, and have been for decades (in my opinion). I often see people say "let the market decide" as if it were the ultimate way of deciding what is best. It's often not in my opinion.

For the topic at hand I don't think there's a good way around letting people pick what they want to study among what is available. I deeply believe they should be able to decide what they are going to study for themselves and be given the keys to take informed decisions. Nobody can know better than themselves what is best for them.

You still need to provide a sensible set of available curricula, and people don't individually have the power to decide which curricula should be available so you still need an informed group of people to decide on this, not individually. Obviously you'll probably have to close curricula which don't attract enough people so you'll have some bit of market deciding.

If you government pays for it someone in Washington would. Ideally (and how it happens today to some extent) this much be determined by market.

PS: Note how many folks on HN are making fun of Gender Studies course. This is a great signal for any young kid not to enter that course.

Worthless in what respect?

Are you indicting the paper or person or other?

Firstly, I am supportive of heavily subsidized/free post-secondary education. However, there is a substantial difference between K-12 and post-secondary.

K-12 is considered a baseline for society. Everyone is expected to have it. It absolutely makes sense for the government to pay for it.

Post-secondary is a different beast. It is not a baseline for society (Even if it is a baseline for white collar-work). Not everyone is expected to have it. People who end up in, on average, better-paying jobs are the primary beneficiaries of cheap/free post-secondary education.

There are two ways out of this situation.

1. You can make post-secondary the baseline. Everyone could be expected to have it. This... Is probably a good idea for building better citizens (and, by proxy, a better society), but it is not economically cost-optimal.

2. You can keep post-secondary as a special privilege for the a select few, citing that society, as a whole, benefits from educating its most capable members. In that case, you'd need hard admissions testing/filtering/etc, it should be easy to drop out if you can't perform once you've been admitted, and universities should primarily focus on education, rather than being a four-year, three-star resort for middle-class young people.

Neither of these two options would look anything like "College, as it is currently practiced in the United States, but paid for by the government."

> People who end up in, on average, better-paying jobs are the primary beneficiaries of cheap/free post-secondary education.

Those people also end up paying far more taxes. There's a perfectly selfish reason for government to make college free - it more than pays for itself over the lifetime of the taxpayer.

It doesn't make sense for government to pay for ridiculous university overhead (e.g. expensive new buildings, armies of worthless administrators, wildly overpaid athletic coaches, etc) but it's a no-brainer deal for government to pay fully for the real costs college degree. The key is to avoid paying for the non-education expenses.

I'm guessing you deduced that those people end up paying more taxes because they end up making more money? If that were the case you wouldn't have the student debt crisis right now; if the payoff was worth it people would be able to afford to pay their loans.

If we can make a college degree only cost what it actually costs and not pay for all the cruft why does the government have to start paying it? You've solved the problem at that point.

> If we can make a college degree only cost what it actually costs and not pay for all the cruft why does the government have to start paying it? You've solved the problem at that point.

Only a single payer system has the leverage to force the universities to decouple their cruft from their core educational expenses. And you're right! College tuition would probably be near-negligible if the cruft was removed, but my take at that point is why not just make it free, then?

The irony is we essentially already have this single payer system. Every college and university is dependent on federal financing for tuition. The federal government simply needs to use the power it already possesses. It's a lot like the federal government's refusal to negotiate drug prices, a wasted opportunity.

> Only a single payer system has the leverage to force the universities to decouple their cruft from their core educational expenses

That's a pretty steadfast assertion. It's untrue, and we know that because higher education used to be affordable without a single payer system.

> The irony is we essentially already have this single payer system.

I'm not sure this is ironic so much as symptomatic. Blank checks lead to waste. Students on the hook for blank checks lead to what we have now.

> why not just make it free, then?

I can think of a couple of reasons. Nothing is free in this world, for one, and beyond that, I don't want to live in a world where I have to spend another 4 years of my life in school just to get a job because it's free and therefore expected of everyone. Those are pretty big reasons why not.

> It's untrue, and we know that because higher education used to be affordable without a single payer system.

We don't know that it would've been affordable without public financing, but I would wager we'd be in the same boat now but with college entirely out of reach for most, instead of merely expensive.

> Nothing is free in this world, for one

Except college in at least six countries[1]

> I don't want to live in a world where I have to spend another 4 years of my life in school just to get a job because it's free and therefore expected of everyone

You don't have to do this. The world still needs field hands and other unskilled labor, and there are still skilled trades that pay quite well.

[1] https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/08061...

Agreed. Everyone is advocating for option #1 because it doesn't tell anyone that they shouldn't go to college. Option #2 is what we need but it's basically impossible to do directly.

The middle ground is the federal government starts admitting that it is footing the bill for higher education (it already is paying via loans). If the government's only option for recouping the money is via future tax revenue than there should be pressure to keep the cost per student low and expected future earnings high. Hopefully this would result in colleges offering cheap online classes, credit via exams, etc.

> 1. You can make post-secondary the baseline. Everyone could be expected to have it. This... Is probably a good idea for building better citizens (and, by proxy, a better society), but it is not economically cost-optimal.

Not everybody needs / is fit for long studies so I don't think it should become the baseline. I still think it should be free to avoid preventing people who are but could not otherwise afford it from attending it.

College as is practiced in the United states is a front to move money from the people paying for tuition into the pockets of administrators and little more.

That needs to stop

I think that translates to "why not have the taxpayer pay for college education too?" Which means that the person who doesn't need/get a college education (think your electrician) is now stuck paying for those who choose to get one and is seeing none of the benefits. Better to have the people who get the benefits pay for the privilege.

That argument only makes sense when education is frightenly expensive - reducing this cost makes it on the level of paying for roads you dont use - it helps you even though you dont get a direct benefit because your entire society works.

But education is frighteningly expensive. Reducing the cost makes sense, but subsidizing the cost of something overpriced doesn't do anything to incentivize lowering the actual cost of that thing.

Likewise, there are loads of things which help society in general which we still hold individuals accountable for. Law-school and Med-school cost loads, but students take on loans for those; small businesses provide a huge portion of employment, but by-and-large the burden of debt (even small-business-advantaged loans) is taken on by owners and not society-at-large (COVID notwithstanding); having a huge selection of television, music, literature, and other media produced in the US is great for society (and is a huge reason for American soft-power worldwide), but the cost of funding nearly all this work is borne by businesses and not the taxpayer.

This isn't to say that certain things shouldn't be funded by the taxpayer. However, saying "This thing is good for all of society, and therefore should be subsidized by the taxpayer" doesn't really necessarily follow.

Becoming a doctor is subsidized by many societies, there's no reason to choose to burden students with exorbitant debt.

The burden of these things have exploded in recent years, there's no clear reason why anyone should pay for that immense increase.

But the whole point is that someone is paying for that increase unless actions are taken to reduce the cost. Like, if laptops started to cost $10,000 each, we could say that people need them and have the government subsidize computers (in which case the taxpayer pays), we could have individuals pay the added cost (the reaction to rising university costs), or we could attempt to push the price of laptops down.

In either of the first two cases, someone is paying the exorbitant prices. In my mind, the question is less "Should taxpayers help fund education" and more "Why is the cost of education such a burden to begin with".

Don't forget, the electrician, mechanic, plumber, etc, also gets free education. It's not free to go to college to be an apprentice or master, in North America.

K-12 is paid for by local taxpayers, at an annual per student rate around $12k, about the highest rate in the world. If you can get taxpayers to pay an even higher rate for college education, then college would be covered too.

Of course, this means you'll still be paying for college, as a taxpayer instead of as an attendee.

> If K-12 is paid for by the government, why not have the government pay for college education too?

Because K-12 is paid for by the government.

They already do that (formerly bogw) for qualifying applicants, my nephew enjoyed his free ride at community college before transferring to a UC.


Funny how almost every top-down system intended to offset problems similar to tuition costing too much are deeply flawed. They're either rife for exploitation or encourage the wrong incentives. Personally I focused on growing weed until I was 26 and could receive financial aid on my own income, which was $0 of course.

Healthcare costs are a similar problem. It was solved in every highly developed nation (with one notable exception). The solution isn’t endless money, it’s to use negotiating power and reasonable price controls. The same policy (price controls/tuition hike caps) was very effective in the United States until the states decided to defund higher education and repeal the tuition hike caps.

While community colleges are significantly cheaper, costs are increasing rapidly each year when it comes to tuition.

Somehow "detailing restrooms" has me picturing someone claybar-ing and waxing toilet seats.

A large Oregon Community College for this academic year:

Oregon students: $130 per credit ($96 tuition + $34 universal fee)

Online students: $130 per credit ($96 tuition + $34 universal fee)

Out-of-state students: $295 per credit ($261 tuition + $34 universal fee)

Some classes have additional fees…

>> Give tuition waivers rather than grants.

Then you'll just get for-profit colleges to pop up (like Devry, etc)

True, I wonder if that narrows the scale of potential fraud and makes it easier to investigate though. Smaller # of fraudulent schools vs. # of fraudulent students

Or, better yet, make it all free like Finland and Russian and many other parts of the world.

Let’s be honest, isn’t it free already ? The Tech / science side has millions of hours of free education online. Much better than anything Finland or Russia together could ever provide.

Even certifications are free or as cheap as a few hundreds of dollars. The true problem comes from GATE KEEPED professions where the common people shouldn’t be involved. Think Pharma / Medicine / etc

Tuitions get higher because colleges and universities are giving out "payment options" which some students default on. It's the same model used by insurance companies to manage their risks.

I believe it's best to give coupons instead of money as aid. Give food/clothing coupons so it's more difficult to purchase alchohol/cigarettes with it. For sure it's still possible but we can add additional measures to increase the difficulties. It's like housing (at least in Canada), they don't give you money to rent apartments, instead they give you specific apartments that you can rent with discounted price.

For the same reason $100 cash is worth more than $100 gift card to the Olive Garden.

In general, I think people can more efficiently allocate their money than a central government planning group can. If an aid recipient wants to buy cigarettes or a drink with it, that’s not what I’d choose, but if they’re going to, I want them to do so as efficiently as possible.

>I think people can more efficiently allocate their money than a central government planning group can

Let's look at it this way: Government just provides the essentials (what essentials consist of is to debate but still can be setup by an expert committee) and people can get whatever they want once they get a job (and thus reducing the aid they need).

This criticism is a little weird to type as someone typically pretty far left. But that just encourages dependency on government and it strips people of autonomy, robbing them of developing the skills they need to not only survive, but to really thrive.

Because some things won't be deemed essential. And now someone has to arbitrate that. And so the government is now making decisions about where you are allowed to live. What constitutes essential housing? Are you allowed to live in non-essential housing and "top up" or do you get stuck with what the expert committee has decided?

We have government-owned public housing in my country, and it has many flaws, in practice. Long wait-lists to get an apartment, no choice of where your apartment is, and little in the way of power to act should you need to move or have something fixed.

If they were given cash equivalent to the value of that housing on the market (a program we've been shifting towards but which lacks funding) then they can rent a house where they need it. Got a job? Move. Landlord is neglectful? Well, at the very least you can probably move.

There's a middle ground, of course. In the case of housing in particular, it might be reasonable to mandate a proportion of social assistance cash payments be spent on rent, should a person end up interacting with homelessness services. (But this is of course assuming you actually can rent anything with that... sometimes not.)

> If they were given cash equivalent to the value of that housing on the market

One issue we see here in Ireland is that there seems to be no path to create laws that force land developers to allocate sufficient space to affordable (they read "affordable" as "less profitable") housing. Since they have pockets deep enough to help their friends get elected, there is not much surprise such things tend to not happen. Ireland's ranked voting system is great for weeding out extremism, but doesn't work as well for preventing regulatory capture.

We are captive to the same problem in most of urban Canada. Everything is zoned detached residential. Homeowners have no interest in voting in municipal governments that would re-zone. The result is that supply is basically fixed in a city like Vancouver despite a growing population. (There are also many other factors in the housing shortage, of course.)

> Give food/clothing coupons so it's more difficult to purchase alchohol/cigarettes with it. For sure it's still possible but we can add additional measures to increase the difficulties.

These feel like sadistic ways to punish people for being poor.

> These feel like sadistic ways to punish people for being poor.

I think I read that we estimate about 1% (and that's at the upper range) of foodstamps/SNAP/EBT/etc are used for fraud. It's a pretty small number but I think a lot of people think it's much higher. We tend to over index on these things and forget to consider the 99% that are being used probably as intended.

What do you mean by saying punishing them? Poor people needs food, clothing, housing and education, these are essentials. You give them the essentials and they should be able to figure out the others when they manage to get a job.

It's everyone's best interest to make sure that they get on board of a better life as quickly as possible. You spread the money on multiple fronts, it just slows down and wastes the money.

For sure we can debate what's "essential" but I really don't think cigarettes and alchohols are among them, unless stapled by a medical doctor.

> What do you mean by saying punishing them?

Taking agency away from them, by forbidding behavior you deem inappropriate.

The most effective programs are the conditional cash transfer ones and they are extremely successful in bootstrapping families out of poverty even in the poorest places of the poorest countries, right? For the Brazilian one I am most familiar with, it was estimated that for every dollar invested in it, 2.5 would return to the government as taxes in 10 years.

Nobody is forbidding behavior they deem inappropriate, they're refusing to finance behavior they deem inappropriate, big difference. And by "deem inappropriate" we don't just mean "dislike it", we mean "not within the scope of the stated reason you requested this money in the first place." "You can't buy lottery tickets with food stamps" is not the same as "you're not allowed to play lottery if you're on food stamps" and it's not the same as disallowing e.g sex out of wedlock while on food stamps.

Though I don’t find myself in agreement with this position, this is a particularly clear and well-articulated statement of the position. Upvoted for clarity of thinking and communication.

This is hardly sadism. If you can buy alcohol with food coupons you are not bettering disenfranchised people’s lives.

> not bettering disenfranchised people’s lives

I personally find that even at a high income relative to the general populations a few drinks at the end of the day can absolutely better my life. If I was disenfranchised I can only imagine this would be even more true.

I would hope that if someone was giving money to disadvantaged people on my behalf that would also include the ability to buy themselves a drink or a joint in states where that's allowed.

Why not just offer the money for a drink yourself? There's no need to involve others, especially at gunpoint of the IRS man, in your dream to pay the disenfranchised to get high and drink.

You mean poor people should have no right to have a glass of wine at the end of a stressful day, or to use wine for cooking a nice meal, or use a beer for a stew (it'll soften the meat)? There is a lot of judgement going on here and I wonder if it's not something that comes from a puritanical mindset where pleasure should be denied to those deemed unworthy.

Beggars can't be choosers. If they want a glass of wine, then they can earn more money to pay for it. Otherwise they can enjoy the free food generously given. They are not "unworthy", but they are also not entitled to anything they want for free.

They don't even have to do that, just buy yeast and some juice/grains, let it sit in a jug you got from some foodproduct on stamps whatever. Tobacco you can grow from seed gathered from a field. It requires work, not money.

Of course they should be allowed to, if they can afford it.

Alternatively: give the poor coupons instead of cash so that their landlord can't just take it from them.

So they will be well fed and clothed on the street?

I don't know what part of Canada you live in, but in my province you just get a monthly lump sum to live on. Out of that you have to pay your rent, hydro, gas, food, clothing, and everything else. There is another branch of government that runs subsidized housing, and it can offer you rent-geared-to-income (which encompasses the working poor as well as those on assistance). Sometimes when an assistance recipient is found to be spending on things outside of basic survival and fails to make the regular payments, a "direct pay" gets set up to creditors but that is an exception requiring case review and evidence, not the rule.

I know this because it has been explained to me in detail by my wife, who is a case worker at the county welfare office.

Such a simplistic view.

Here's something to consider: Nicotine alleviates the symptoms of schizophrenia which affects 1% of the population. https://www.brainfacts.org/archives/2008/smoking-and-schizop...

So put yourself in their shoes. They need financial aid because their mind is broken. One of the few things that calms the screaming voices is a cigarette. Nicotine acts on the brain in various ways and it literally alleviates the symptoms of a severe disease.

So yes they need financial aid but it's really arrogant that you're so sure you know better than them on how to spend it. You're also not giving them a learning experience. Remember that the goal is for them to dig themselves out of their hole. By not allowing them to succeed or fail you aren't setting them up for the day they are financially independent.

There are many less harmful ways of ingesting nicotine.

Yep they're transitioning to e-cigarettes these days. Despite that being way better (less tar) there's still community outrage whenever a homeless person is seen using any form of nicotine. "Why are they spending their money on that if they don't have a home!". It's a very naive viewpoint once you realize that their priorities are perfectly reasonable given their condition.

are nicotine lozenges, gum, patches etc not options?

Once a medical doctor approves, for sure they can get it.

Putting aside the difficulties of those in need seeing a doctor and affording a prescription... Unfortunately we're at the early stages of understanding nicotines role in brain chemistry. Scizophrenics have been chain smoking since the start. But medicine is only just catching on and understanding why the majority of those with Scizophrenia chain smoke.

With this in mind you can look back at all the judgements made on the mentally ill. It's common for people to think "Why are they buying cigarettes if they don't have a home!".

Turns out that viewpoint was wrong all along. The ability to think at all is indeed a top priority, perhaps higher than housing or food. It turns out that the crazy person using money they receive to buy smokes wasn't making poor choices after all. They were doing the one thing that gave them a chance at clarity of thought. Understandable. Yet we were judging the way they spent their money the whole time. We were wrong and we should take that lesson and continue calling out overly simplistic viewpoints along the lines of what you said above.

While I'm with you on your main point throughout this thread, I do think making doctors bureaucratic gatekeepers is a very bad idea.

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