Reading the title, the answer is obviously "zero". Government could by fiat decide that college education is anything it decides it to be. No money required at all.
But then the author comes up with this 62 billion number, which isn't the cost to make college tuition-free, it's the current private cost of tuition, which is a completely different animal. Hell, it might require an infinite amount of money to pay the tuition on everyone in the country for the next four years -- demand simply outstrips supply. So the article doesn't answer the question.
Finally, the author seems to think this is all just basic math, which I find odd after having screwed the pooch so badly thus far.
It's just a mess of a piece: linkbait headline, confusion of issues, poorly supported thesis, and rambling ending. I don't see it contributing to an interesting discussion on HN, and I wouldn't want to see HN full of articles like this.
Also, if it's 'free' that means that even in the case of someone from a very wealthy family pays the same as someone who really does need the help, coming from a poor background. That's kind of inefficient...
I like the idea of loans for anyone who wants them, which are payable from your future income, when and if you have it. I read they do that in Australia, and it seems sensible to me: it lets those without money attend, but ensures that they'll pay back what they consumed at some point if they find gainful employment because of their degree.
It would be hard to quantify the return on investment to the taxpayers, but free quality higher education must have contributed to the thriving California economy and culture.
Of course, our costly rival Stanford has also contributed much, to Silicon Valley in particular. But we have twice as many Nobel laureates :)
[EDIT] 1 F35 being $212M means this proposal would be 295 F35s
In fiscal year 2012, public 4-
year institutions and administrative offices received
of their revenues from tuition and fees
So What your saying is the government could foot the bill for ~20% of college education by doubling its education spending. Also this is assuming that you don't change the value equation of going to school by making it free. How much more demand would you have for those public schools if you made them free ? So lets play a quick mental game here. You make "public" schools free. That means the demand to get into those schools increases. That also means that demand at those private schools will decrease. Kids who would look at both a public and private instuition and might choose to spend marginally more on the private school will choose a public school that has an almost as good program if there is no cost associated with it. Kids who today are getting into public schools paying less and still getting a good education will be forced out by better preforming peers and will either pay _more_ to go to a private school or go without college at all. Good job you just made it so lower income students can't go to school at all. Congratulations.
Note: If your response to this is well the states would build more capacity remember that ~80% of public university funding already comes from the states so every extra student they make space for is money out of their coffers.
I see the sky high college tuitions as a side effect. The real problem we need to tackle first is how these institutions are structured and what they're spending their money on.
From what I learned of the university I attended, huge (HUGE) amounts of the budget go towards administration, and relatively smaller slices go to teachers and facilities.
Before we start subsidizing, or trimming degree programs and services, lets make sure we're re-aligning our higher education institutions around the original mission: education! Once we've gotten our schools back to providing the best possible education, and fostering good teaching faculty, then we can start talking about subsidizing the cost. Then we will know as a society, that we are truly paying to make our citizens more powerful in their pursuit of happiness.
As the state of our education system stands right now, I would not want to subsidize it.
The issue is slightly different, the real task is to discourage those who won't finish their degree because they aren't cut out for it early on, so that the student and the university won't waste their time. When I got my degree back when in Europe they did just that. The attrition rate in the first year was high - 30 %, but whoever had passed the sieving exams usually came out at the other end with a degree.
Unfortunately one of the metrics US unis are judged by is retention rate. This will have to change.
I'm having trouble thinking of a downside to this.
It depends. Prices could go up as a result of cronyism and corruption. Or prices could go down if the deciders decide to cut it.
Or if education were democratically managed, resources could be allocated according to the population's preferences.
Who knows what would happen in real life?
For example, the politicians who control Texas education ensure that all Texas textbooks are ``politically correct.'' Aka censorship. That's what happens when politicians control education.
Easy federal loans got them into an upside down situation from which they may never recover.
I got paid to go to a public university through scholarship, with money on top of free housing and tuition. I could have paid for college, or probably convinced someone to give me a loan given my career track.
There's way too many people who are destroying value by attending college right now, and the bubble will pop. 12 years to get an art history PHD and manage a gas station is not an efficient use of time or work energy.
I'd say I only know of 1 person I knew in high school who went to college and now works in the field they got their degree in. 1. (Except me!)
The rest of my friends do random stuff you don't need a degree for and earn very little money.
That said, it's easy to hate on humanities majors. But consider that at my second-tier state school, about 70 % of science majors are shooting for pre-med, not to prepare for a career in science. They know well enough that there are no jobs in science. A fair share of those people won't get into medical school, and medical education is a fine mess itself and likely the next bubble. It's not a good use of public funds.
If I had a kid I would make sure they were introduced to
programming(including web developement) and the financial markets at an early age; We would also go to church. Yea--I think church matters. The world has enough Trumps and
Zuckerburg's(yes--I think he stole the idea, but college
taught me we all steal it's called Behaviorism, but I feel
Mark went farther than subconsciously thinking he came up
with a good idea. ). I think I flunked grammer though?
One more thing about school. I went to Chiropractic School
and lasted a little over a year. With in a few months I
realized I made a huge mistake(their are no Subluxations,
well maybe a handful of real subluxations caused by accidents). I had one teacher tell the class, "there are
over 17 different upper cervical techniques,--And they All
work equally well". I was floored. It works on a placebo
level. I went home had a break down, and dropped out. Paid
back the 12 grand to the government. I has a break down
for other reasons than the lie of Chiropractic School, but
What always amassed me was the amout of denial among the students.
I couldn't figure out if they didn't know about the Placbo
Effect, didn't want to admit they were duped, didn't
care as long as it was legal, or they just wanted to be called Doctors?
I had one classmate die of a stroke while biking on a Sunday. He was a nice Midwestern kid. He was going
to Chiro school along with his wife, but she was beyond
cool. The ironic and sad part of his early death is I
think he was seeing a Chiropractor weekly, and getting
"adjusted" by a technique called a Rotary(snap your neck
ligaments--Gases escape?), but patient believes bones
are moving. This is what Sharon Stone was having done
to her when she had an extremely rare bilateral stroke.
I heared the only reason she is alive is because by luck,
a visiting vascular surgon happen be in San Franciso on
attending a conference? Some how the hospital got him
to repair the vessels.
I was looking for some
"truths" while I went to college, and all I took away
from the experience was summed up too well in the
movie Superstar, by Molly Shannon, "a bunch of cliff notes,
and a lot of drinking". That was an extreme statement, and
I think finishing a bachler's degree in anything is important, especially for low income families. Rich kids
can fall back on their parents, or use their parents connections--usually.
I'll stop. I'm still confused, and just venting, and praying I have a few more healthy years.