Bernie Sanders and the Price Tag of “Free” College Tuition

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Bernie Sanders and the Hoax of Free College Tuition

As with Bernie Sanders’s proposal to have Medicare for all, I am in favor of free college tuition. The only – and it’s a huge only – problem with both proposals is that they leave enormous questions unanswered. With Medicare for all, one has to wonder how that will be managed when there is no indication that the system is even halfway prepared to deal with providing Medicare for the Baby Boom generation. Medicare has worked fairly well for a much smaller generation because it has had a huge generation of workers contributing to its support. In the next ten to twenty years, an enormous number of people will need and expect the same benefits that they provided to their elders, and suddenly the system is just not going to have the wherewithal to meet its promises.

The problem with free college tuition also involves an older generation, that of the people who teaching college. If college tuition becomes “free,” I have no doubt that there will be extraordinary pressure put on colleges to keep tuition rates at a low level. How can one best resist inflationary pressures on tuition? One obvious way is to keep the salaries of professors low, and I suspect that Bernie Sanders will turn out to be no different in his attitude towards college instructors than Dr. Timothy White, current chancellor of the California State University system.

Don’t let anyone believe for an instant that Sanders is some uncontaminated, progressive idealist. While in the past, he has voted against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and has in fact called for their dismantling, he is also a calculating politician who knows exactly what he is doing. In promising one generation a free education, he simultaneously is planning to push college professors yet further down the scale of a modest middle-class existence.

Here is a recent press release from the Chancellor’s Office of the California State University system propounding how faculty should extend themselves. I have “translated” his message underneath in order to convey the real plan in place. I suspect that Bernie Sanders would not hesitate to endorse Chancellor White’s sentiments, the “translation” of which is meant to be the rallying cry at the Board of Trustees meetings at the Golden Shores complex in Long Beach, California.

“It is vitally important to establish a campus learning environment that supports the students, especially those who are the first in their families to attend a university,” said White. “We must be ready to answer their questions, to support them and to challenge them to reach past what they thought were their intellectual limits and to develop into a new person. To do that demands a passionate commitment to student success by faculty and staff alike.” – See more at:


“It is vitally important to establish a system-wide environment that impoverishes the CSU faculty, especially those who are the first in their families to have succeeded in not only attending college, but to have completed a graduate degree. We must be ready to forestall their urgent pleas for equity in pay worthy of their years of training and professional practice. We must challenge them to develop a new sense of self-denial in the face of the wealth of knowledge they create, not to mention the literal wealth that that knowledge creates. Campus administrators and Golden Shore bureaucrats alike must advocate for a substantial increase in psychic pay for CSU faculty by the end of this decade.”

I would be more inclined to be enthusiastic about Bernie Sanders’s plans for free college tuition if he were also to address a rally of striking professors next month. A promise to include free rent for professors teaching in the CSU system should complement the call for free tuition. Otherwise, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to figure out who will pay the price of “free” college tuition. And it would not be the administrators at Brotman Hall at CSU Long Beach.

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