Free college: A good or a bad idea?

Have we really given this notion of ‘free scholarships for college students ’ enough critical consideration? Politicians from both parties have jumped on this bandwagon, trying to one-up each other in their pursuit of votes. Here are some ideas to consider for how best to support our young people’s long-term success.DSCF5714 (1)

First, let’s broaden the discussion to include all forms of post-high school training, not just college. Many people aren’t cut out for college, but they do require some sort of training to learn marketable skills. Include training for occupations like carpentry, plumbing, cosmetology, nursing, phlebotomy, construction, auto repair, and computer programming. These are the type of middle class jobs that are in reach for every young adult.

Anyone who receives a free ride for their training should owe the country a couple years of service, and make sure it’s in their field of study. Education majors could become a teacher’s aide under a master teacher, a much needed apprenticeship that doesn’t exist today. Plumbers and electricians could work for a nonprofit like Habitat For Humanity. Construction workers and engineers could cut their teeth on some of the infrastructure problems with our roads and bridges. You get the picture; provide important ways for young people to be of service and gain valuable training and work experience in the process.

Finally, ensure that participants take their free college education or training seriously. Have parameters they must follow to continue receiving benefits: attendance in the classroom or with online courses, reasonable performance (grades, certifications, etc.), effort and commitment.

Tying in service with giving young adults free training would help to avoid indulgent parenting with resultant spoiled children with a sense of entitlement.  It’s more of an investment than it is a free gift. Participation that involves some sweat equity and some skin in the game will create more motivation, ownership, and appreciation. Most importantly, we would be creating a generation that has the skills and experience to hit the ground running as they enter adulthood, making it a win-win for everyone.

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