Republican presidential frontrunner Ben Carson recently blasted Democrats’ plans to offer free college tuition, saying: “If they don’t really understand the financial situation of the country and somebody comes along and says, ‘free college for everybody,’ they’ll say, ‘oh, what a wonderful person,’…They have no idea that all you’re talking about is hastening the destruction of the nation.”
Carson must then believe that encumbering newly graduated students with insurmountable student debt in a less-than-stellar job market is a useful way to help start a career and constructive overall for the economy and the nation. Consider, just from a purely economic perspective, the complete opposite is in fact the case, with: “nearly 41 million Americans collectively owing nearly $1.2 trillion on their federal student loans, according to Education Department data, concerns are mounting in Washington that those debts risk slowing economic growth as borrowers delay purchases and investments in order to repay Uncle Sam, or instead default on the loans after failing to secure jobs that would enable them to make good on their obligations.”
However, in Ben Carson’s particular case, he claims to have arrived at Yale University in 1969 as a scholarship student. According to his own autobiography “Gifted Hands,” he received a 90% scholarship to Yale. The Democratic plan is to offer tuition-free college to all at public colleges and universities. Clearly, Carson hypocritically believes that a tuition-free education funded by a scholarship to a private university is somehow different than a tuition-free education to a public university. The Washington Post recently reported that “the top 10 schools (in terms of assets) have about $180 billion…more than one-third of all the holdings of the more than 800 colleges and universities in North America – none of the money, nor gains on it are taxed.” The key take-away here is that translates into hidden costs for taxpayers. Take subsidies, for instance: “Princeton University receives $105,000 in taxpayer benefits for each of its students, compared to the $12,000 in appropriations that go to New Jersey’s public university, Rutgers.” Yale University is number three in the country with an endowment of nearly $24 billion (having earned an 11.5% investment tax-free return last year) – so who exactly paid for Carson’s “private” scholarship?
Republicans are doubling-down on their poor-shaming anti-“handout” rhetoric. At the recent Republican presidential debate, Marco Rubio was critical of traditional higher education and called for “more welders and fewer philosophers.” He injected that statement into a fundraising email, challenging what he believes will be a disastrous result for the economy if a Democratic plan for tuition-free higher education is adopted.
It is just plain stupid to think that a college education is nothing more than a means to a paycheck. Carson, Rubio, and the other Republican presidential wannabees have a vested interest in denying access to equal opportunity because they know that an educated electorate is less likely to vote against their self-interest – as so many Republicans presently do. The bottom line is an educated citizenry will recognize that the Republicans are the ones with their hands in the pockets of the American public at the behest of their corporate puppet-masters and billionaire oligarchs, and not the 47% they so infamously defamed.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.