Should College Be Free?

  • Published on Jan 11, 2019
  • Massive student debt used to fund a broken education system is the single biggest economic problem of the future. College shouldn't be free but it needs to change! This is a call to action!
    My name is Jacob Clifford and I'm an economics teacher and TVclipr. I've been making economics videos for 10 years but this is different than anything I've ever done. I don't know if you're willing to fight the system, but if you are, I'm willing to help. It's your move.
    - When I talk about "Free College" I am referring to the government paying tuition for all public universities and colleges, not just community colleges.
    Want more? Check out economist Bryan Caplan's book "The Case against Education"

Comments • 203

  • Jacob Clifford
    Jacob Clifford  10 months ago +57

    I don't know if you're willing to fight the system, but if you are, I'm willing to help. It's your move. #changecollege

    • arjunshreekumar
      arjunshreekumar 6 months ago

      I'm not sure if I'm totally convinced by any of the five arguments:

      1) citing "opportunity cost" exaggerates the scarcity of discretionary money. Even if you don't take into account all of the funding mechanisms proposed by supporters of free college (wealth tax, marginal tax, financial transactions tax etc.), you could very easily reorganize federal spending to make room for the policy. Whether it's ending subsidies to the fossil fuel industry or cutting defense spending, we have more than enough resources to guarantee quality education for everyone.

      2) those in the middle class are still saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Even a family making median income struggles to support children through undergraduate studies, even more so for graduate school. Everyone from Paul Krugman to Milton Friedman (or at least his acolytes) agree that such debt is devastating to the economy.

      3) "diploma inflation" is only true if you learn zero soft or hard skills in college. Because of specialized education, people are more able to compete in the fields of their choice, not just those they're forced in to by necessity. Say, for example, that I've dreamed of becoming an aerospace engineer. It's pretty clear that I would have to go to college to land a job in the field. While it's certainly true that there would be more people with degrees to now compete against, it's not like everyone who goes to the now-free public college would have gotten a degree in astrophysics. The cost of the potential of slightly higher competition is vastly outweighed by the freedom given to those who want to follow their passions.

      4 and 5) We can chew gum and walk too. Because the colleges in question are public, there is still an avenue for advocacy from students (at least to the degree there's an avenue to advocate whatever alternative is preferable). Whether people want to eliminate core curricula or increase course selections or do literally anything to depart from the status quo, they can do that while still pushing for what should be a human right in our economy: a comprehensive, quality education.

    • Adam George
      Adam George 8 months ago

      We should implement a nation wide land value tax to fund a Universal Basic Income (UBI), then people who want to go to college can use their UBI to pay for it. The land value tax has negative dead-weight losses, so this tax would not be inflationary, it would actually stimulate more production.

    • Austin Ryder
      Austin Ryder 9 months ago +2

      This video is worth many utils

    • Nadine MacDonald
      Nadine MacDonald 10 months ago +1

      Agreed, higher education shouldn’t be made free to everyone, my main problem is that employers need some kind of certification to prove that you are educated, which makes the “knowledge” market non-competitive, if students can learn everything online at a lower cost and do better, they should be offered jobs by the employers, the solution should be that employers could make exams that test the candidates' knowledge and skills, as long as they pass the exams, they should be allowed to get a job.
      The government should definitely not pay for tuitions, students debt is at 1 trillion dollars plus, the US government total tax revenue is only at about 6 trillion dollars, the cost is only going to get bigger if college is made free and paid by the taxpayers.

  • Dung Nguyen
    Dung Nguyen Day ago

    I am sad that this video didn’t get 100k yet

  • Brad Daniel
    Brad Daniel 4 days ago

    I love #3 & #5. - Thank you

  • Hedley Lamarr
    Hedley Lamarr 10 days ago

    College should be free if you keep a perfect grade point average. If you don't, then you get a machete and 14 hours a day to cut sugarcane down. And it two years, you get a new machete. Either way you will preform for the good of the state and collective.

  • ALA Tube
    ALA Tube Month ago

    i strongly agree

  • Kirk Johnson
    Kirk Johnson Month ago

    Your number four reason is the top reason I think . The current system of education is no longer affordable because it is horribly corrupt. The answer is not to throw even more money at it. First fix the system.

  • dan Gatto
    dan Gatto 2 months ago

    How does that work? Harvard, Yale, etc. charge a lot more than State Universities. Is everyone going to Harvard (supposing they have a better education). I paid for my education; don't freeload off me to pay for yours. Liberals attempt to hand out more free stuff.

  • Xenu Bless You
    Xenu Bless You 2 months ago

    Jacob. Do you believe that college in its current state in the U.S. is a market failure?

  • 哥倫布 Little Columbus

    Education is ALREADY free. Why let the government give trillions to the education market for something that a kid can get for free on the internet. It's just a meaningless bureaucracy to bureaucracy money transfer.

  • Eugene Hicks
    Eugene Hicks 3 months ago

    The problem is people go to college for money and jobs. Not the pursuit of intellectual and personal growth and development. This present model is obsolete.

    • Jacob Clifford
      Jacob Clifford  3 months ago

      Agreed. If people want to go to college only for intellectual and personal growth they CAN go for free. Anyone, anywhere can audit any college course for free. You could go to Harvard right now and sit in any class.

    MARTIN WOOLDRIDGE 3 months ago

    If college is free then everyone can go? I want to just take a few classes and don’t want a degree. Can i got to Harvard and just clog up the class room.

  • Richard Mortimer
    Richard Mortimer 3 months ago

    I agree with your arguement Mr. Clifford. Would you consider doing “decade in review” reviewing the economy, monetary policy, fiscal policy, related legislation, and political environment? Try to show the overall result for each decade, what mistakes were made, etc?

  • Patrick Staight
    Patrick Staight 3 months ago

    What are your thoughts on the need for advanced education (not necessary college) in the face of increasing automation and outsourcing?

  • Charles Warren
    Charles Warren 4 months ago

    Nothing is free. If it's free, then it's worthless.

  • Andy Dufrense
    Andy Dufrense 4 months ago

    The reason why people focus on free college and not our public education system (k-12) is because people who can go to college can vote

  • Source Code Deleted
    Source Code Deleted 5 months ago

    This makes a lot of sense. I wonder why this isn't so popular.

  • Ferroneoboron
    Ferroneoboron 5 months ago

    Lefties ARE in favor of increasing spending on much younger students not least because of the broad spectrum of long-term benefits not just in education. And the reason they're not demanding a change in the way it's delivered is because, in my opinion, people pushing 'free at the point of delivery' college is because they know that the push to voucherize, privatize and set up diploma mills is intense. There's a reason there isn't a huge influx of students into private colleges.

  • TS I
    TS I 5 months ago

    All make sense

  • Charles Warren
    Charles Warren 5 months ago

    If it's free, then it isn't worth anything.

  • Yash Singh
    Yash Singh 6 months ago +1

    I'm not sure you're statement that everyone can afford tuition stands up to scrutiny-- from my research in American uni's, you guys just get hella big loans to pay for it, so the issue is if they can afford the loan repayments-- and it is predicted that by 2023 40% of borrowers are expected to default.
    On the fact that they'd get less benefit due to the idea more people in general will get degrees, devaluing it, this is true, however surely there would still be a benefit in 1) Productivity for the individual (and so economy/ labour as a whole) and 2) People who get free undergrad degrees still have a financial/ income advantage if travelling outside of their country (so their labour competition is less skilled on comparison)
    Personally I think we should fund apprenticeships, vocational qualifications more, are these are proven to actually help educate and increase social mobility of the poor, and keep the current (UK) system in place, but offer bursaries / means tested bursaries based upon familial wealth, and pay back based on income.
    Fully agree with a reform in how uni's/ colleges operate though, I personally hope in the future the increase in online education and training will decrease prices, increase competition and allow uni's to better collate data of students and subjects.

  • Paul Standaert
    Paul Standaert 6 months ago

    Kinda ironic that I was forced to pay for math and grammar classes of which I had plenty from K-12. It was merely a review with some revisions since the rules of English vary from one teacher to another. But, if I didn't pay for those, it meant no degree.
    Is the gubberment going to reimburse me for my college tuition? I would want that $$$$ plus the interest that I paid for my mortgage debt. If suddenly everyone starts getting their college education for free, that just puts me behind.

  • squilliam
    squilliam 6 months ago

    I dont see how a college degree will become as valueless as a high school diploma because they have to be specialized. One cannot get a highschool degree in engineering. A college degree in gender studies is much less valuable to the market than a science major. More people will go to college meaning higher competition and less of a chance at a job but atleast the playing feild is more fair. I agree that the system is inefficient also but this does not surmount my perception that a more equitable economy is one that allows for higher education to be available to all. We can both fund it through taxes and make it more efficient

  • Unknown Inc.
    Unknown Inc. 6 months ago

    RIP 7/100K views

  • Gabriel Aldous
    Gabriel Aldous 7 months ago +1

    Why does this video have so few views?

  • Ismail Ki
    Ismail Ki 7 months ago +2

    That ping at the end was the FBI.

  • Complaining Qoheleth
    Complaining Qoheleth 7 months ago

    Primary and secondary school are also outdated and whatnot and a lot of people know it but nothing ever gets done about any of these.

  • IrregularStar
    IrregularStar 7 months ago

    This was an excellent video, much better than what I've expected. In where I live, college is free an what you've stated has became reality long ago. Your analysis and points are all well made. Great job as always.

  • Nicolas Molini
    Nicolas Molini 8 months ago

    In my country we have the UBA, is the largest university in Argentina and it's free. The education is good, but only the 5% of the students gets a degree. I think it's a waste of money and its inefficent, because the poor people didn´t even finish the high school, its very sad to be true.

  • Connie Rosenbalm
    Connie Rosenbalm 8 months ago

    I'd bet part of the answer is skilled labor in all disciplines.

  • misterpist
    misterpist 8 months ago +3

    Free College will be much more expensive than a cash only, free market system.

  • dan lucky
    dan lucky 9 months ago

    STEM programs should be reduced in costs. Gender studies type classes should be tripled in cost to cover mental health issues they deal with later... If cant afford college go to skill trades or military, both great options.

    MONEY with MARK ALBERT 9 months ago +3

    Interesting thoughts Jacob. I enjoy your videos. Keep up the good work!!!

  • maria bravo
    maria bravo 9 months ago

    Clifford for president 2020

  • Barry 1337
    Barry 1337 9 months ago

    in germany it is, u pay about 300 euros for every semester

    • Barry 1337
      Barry 1337 8 months ago

      @Canaan Noah it depends, but most likely in german

    • Canaan Noah
      Canaan Noah 8 months ago

      Do they teach it in English or German .

  • Jamil Fuad
    Jamil Fuad 9 months ago


  • sandy mist
    sandy mist 9 months ago +1

    this video really needs to go viral. very good job Mr. Clifford

  • Jarallah Aloraini
    Jarallah Aloraini 9 months ago

    Students debts can be interest free, and the gov pay the interest, Problem Solved!
    but keep in mind, you never want a free education.

  • Savanah Guilmot
    Savanah Guilmot 10 months ago

    I agree on the fact that the system probably is outdated, the thing though is that on the work market, universities bring legitimacy. Let's be honest, if I put that I got an economic degree from a university on my resume, that will have way more impact than saying "I taught myself economics thanks to TVclip videos". I'm not even sure I could put that on a resume without something to prove I'm not lying.
    To go further into the part where I agree the most, it's the inefficiency of the lectures and lessons. And language learning is probably one of the biggest problem I've had. Not just in college but also in High School because of the way they teach us (big vocabulary list, no repetition, class working instead of individual practice which could be possible with computer and internet,...). Now, the question is, what could "I"do about that problem when the board members are usually people way older, and usually "knowing better" than me.
    One last thing (and I know this is an economic channel), I think College should be free mostly because even though the university diploma might replace the HS diploma, an educated population will always accomplish more. I believe that education and access to it should be free. That is why I value internet so much (and I would like to thank you because you're participating in giving a free access to knowledge).

  • jiru piao
    jiru piao 10 months ago

    No offense, but I suppose Mr. Clifford had never been boring in his classes, in his many years of teaching classroom Econ.

  • Fajitahmed
    Fajitahmed 10 months ago

    Hey Jacob. Can you explain to me why pretty much every economist like yourself is libertarian?

  • Zhao Zhihao
    Zhao Zhihao 10 months ago

    Tuition is crazy in North America. For international students, it is even crazier.

    • misterpist
      misterpist 8 months ago

      That’s because the gov got involved in lending

  • Joshua Sewsankar
    Joshua Sewsankar 10 months ago

    I've always argued these points. Thank you for this video.

  • Ricardo No Mokou
    Ricardo No Mokou 10 months ago +3

    I think scholarship is better than free tuition. Bcs in scholarship hardworking attire is needed to be qualified, consider this as good investment for getting good grade workers for future

  • Dimitar Dimitrov
    Dimitar Dimitrov 10 months ago

    You're awesome Jacob! I stand by your message.

  • Isaac Liu
    Isaac Liu 10 months ago

    I agree as long as research still gets funded

  • Tony Budetti
    Tony Budetti 10 months ago

    Preach! I am a little pissed: I made almost the exact points in class last semester. I have 2 kids in college. Completely overpaying for most of their "education." We are asking everyone to do what has already been done, just because we have always done it that way...stupid.

  • Alvaro Muñoz Ruiz
    Alvaro Muñoz Ruiz 10 months ago +1

    Numbered answers
    #1: Ok then, do put more money on early education. As it is this point just seems to support the status quo.
    #2: So? If the upper classes benefit as well that's just a byproduct, I didn't know we were supposed to deny people benefits over this.
    #3: With the diploma comes the training. It is the training that is useful. You, know the education part.
    #4: Fair-ish point. There could be a streamlining but that changes greatly from institution to institution and depending of what career one is pursuing. It just does not apply to everything.
    #5: This is not a reason against free tuition it is just a call for change.
    I think that the list format really muddles up the true point of the video which is a shame because there is an interesting conversation to be had about a reestructuracion of the higher education system and the practicality of it. There's an interesting point to be made about the value of a title and whether education should be pursued for the sole reason of getting a job, I mean plenty of people go into philosophy majors, they know that there's no philosophers shortage in the world, what gives.

  • A one legged man
    A one legged man 10 months ago +2

    Nothing is free. Everything is permitted.

    • Deos
      Deos 8 months ago +1

      @Adam George Yeah.. why don't I just steal or start murdering people while I'm at it because I can? Great logic.. -.-

    • Adam George
      Adam George 8 months ago

      Nature provided the earth for free. The earth is worth many, many trillions of dollars, all provided for free, by mother nature ( or God if you believe in that stuff). We need to stop allowing this free stuff to be monopolized ... when something is free, like the earth, we should all get an equal share of it. Those who want an education can use their equal share of land rent to pay for their education.

  • Martin Buchholz
    Martin Buchholz 10 months ago +1

    Dear Mr Clifford
    I finally passed my econ exam in university with one of the highest score. But it was not only due to your videos but because I changed my learning strategy! Essentialy what I did was, that I reread what my professor said and then I watched your videos to understand how the graphs work in an animated way. This helps in a great way, because looking at two pictures in a book or script of a before and after situation of, for example, the aggregate demand graph, doesn't really explain it enough.
    All in all I treat your videos more as a supplement to my classes, just to understand it a little bit more, rather than a complete substitution and ignoring what my professor said during classes.

  • Kassandra
    Kassandra 10 months ago

    I agree that university should not necessarily be free, but I do think that tuition fees in some countries are totally out of proportion. As a German person studying in the Netherlands, I pay about 2000 euros tuition fees per year. This is manageable and I am happy to pay as I receive something really good in return. But having to get into huge debt in order to finance your education is really not okay and when I look at tuition fees in countries like the US (or Australia, UK,..), it amazes me that people are actually paying that. Sure, you guys are used to it and I get it that you want to go to uni, but the fees you have to pay are honestly ridiculous and something needs to be done about this.

  • Anna Bailey
    Anna Bailey 10 months ago

    Another great video Mr Clifford, and all valid points!

  • Sylvain Hours
    Sylvain Hours 10 months ago +2

    Mr. Clifford, don't you think programs such as AP contribute to fuel that "broken" system you denounce? This is an actual question, by no means an accusation.

  • Ragnhild Kosmo Holm
    Ragnhild Kosmo Holm 10 months ago

    I think that many parts of 'murica is broken, and it is difficult to change the educational system alone... I see there are some fellow Scandinavians down in the comments here. Norwegian here, Americans probably see us as communists. Yes, you are the land of Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Google and Microsoft. But these are the "tops", and it is far from the top to the bottom.
    Education is the best way out of poverty. I think that giving the population an education decreases crime (I believe there have been many studies), increases peoples understanding of how the society works, "broadens their minds"...
    Over here we have public and private schools, where most students choose public (free). The private schools create competition, so that the public schools needs to step up their game, so I see a place for the private ones as well . Public schools can be just as good as private, at least here in Norway.
    Everyone over here, rich or poor, can borrow money from a public "bank" (cannot do anything else than borrow money from school, and pay it back again after. Interests start "running" after you are done studying, and the interests are quite low.. Aprox 2% as we speak). When you graduate 40% of the loan is paid back to the student (must complete in the normal time, 3 years for bachelor). This loan makes it possible to not work while we study. (Some do work, because they want to pay for alcohol and fancy vacations ;))
    We do have some boring classes that everyone has to attend. But I also think it is OK to learn that everything is not super fun and interesting, as long as the subjects does not take precedence over the interesting subjects.
    You are mentioning that you can learn things online. But how one person be measured up against the other if they have learned "stuff" online without a test, exam, hand in, presentation, paper, degree, etc. to show for his/hers knowledge?
    I have a masters degree in computer science, and after that degree I had 35-35k USD in student loans. Gotta love communism. After my masters, while working full time as a developer, I am pursuing a degree in administration/economics. For free as well. Found your channel while learning public finance!

  • Kyle Polizotto
    Kyle Polizotto 10 months ago

    If you look at country's like Germany or Denmark, which do have state funded universities, the entrance requirements are much more demanding than anything in the USA. Germany also has a much different system, if you don't pass your Mittlere Reife you aren't going to university, you are going to a vocational school to learn a trade. The German and Danish systems are designed to allow only the best students into universities, because of Point #3, they don't want it to become the next HS diploma. The USA cannot have a free education system for universities without completely overhauling its k-12 system first.

  • Richard Hatfield
    Richard Hatfield 10 months ago

    Education, whether academic or technical, should be seen by the state as an investment in giving people the tools to make better decisions, greater flexibility in a changing world and improved wellbeing. Currently, the 20-30 year olds will be generally POORER than their parents at the same age. This is the first time EVER that has happened. It is an investment as poorer less well educated people tend to make great demands on the state whereas education leads to higher incomes that pay taxes to the state. The free market (if there ever was one) has never delivered outcomes that ensure fair and equitable distribution regarding education. I agree the all levels incl. university and qualification system is broke, however I cannot see how the latent conservatism that exists in government and education is going to fix it.

    • Richard Hatfield
      Richard Hatfield 10 months ago

      A one legged man Government investment is not a business, it is for the greater good of society.

    • A one legged man
      A one legged man 10 months ago

      the state shouldn't be run like a business

  • Feynstein 100
    Feynstein 100 10 months ago +2

    #1 Nothing is free. Absolutely agree. If anything is free, there's a good chance people will exploit it and won't have a feeling of ownership (tragedy of the commons). Having said that, however, education is a very important commodity for the progress of society and tuition fees shouldn't be so absurdly high that people have to spend decades to pay off their debts. Imo this not only gives people an incentive to be uneducated but it also hurts the economy because if people are spending most of their income paying off their student loans, then they have less money to spend on goods and services. I propose a middle ground. Let tuition fees exist but be cheap/affordable. This will deter anyone trying to waste educational resources and make people more responsible with their studies, while simultaneously not punishing them for choosing education or pushing them into debt for years to come. I think tuition should cost only as much as students can earn during their studies. Thus, when they are finished studying, they won't have to worry about staying afloat, especially if they can't find a good job immediately.
    #2 Agree with this one. Education is especially important for poorer people because it can help them improve their economic status. The solution I described in #1 should take care of that but we could always provide scholarships to poor students based on their socioeconomic condition too.
    #3 I disagree a bit with this one. Just because college is free doesn't mean everyone will want to join it. There's still the opportunity cost of having a full-time paying job. And in my experience, most people actually don't like learning. They just force themselves through it in hopes of securing a better future for themselves. I agree that it would increase the competition because more people would have the same degree but the alternative is to have the same competition post high-school with less educated people. And that's much worse imo. One way or another, we will have competition and I'd rather it be between educated, reasonable adults than less educated, emotional teenagers. The only real solution to this is to either decrease the population or to have large economic growth to create more opportunities for everyone. And since the former isn't ethical and the latter is unlikely, we're stuck with the situation I described above.
    #4 and #5 I strongly agree. The internet and the digital revolution have rendered colleges completely obsolete and irrelevant. Why do we need to pay teachers to teach people the same thing over and over again when we can easily record the lectures and show them to students instead? Yes, students will have questions/comments which they will want to consult with the teacher, but this can be done by asking the teacher to video chat for 10-15 minutes after the lecture, instead of spending the entire time speaking there. And we can even streamline this process by making a note of the most frequently asked questions and incorporating them into the lecture itself. We would need drastically fewer personnel and none of the gargantuan infrastructure, which would reduce the costs to practically nothing (I know there are always some costs and nothing is free, but there's a huge difference between paying 100 dollars a month and paying 2000 dollars a month)

  • Acho
    Acho 10 months ago

    The future is online education. Great video.

  • Triton Lord
    Triton Lord 10 months ago

    Thank you Mark Cuban, very cool

  • Brett Williams
    Brett Williams 10 months ago

    You make some great points as always. Mr. Clifford. However, what I think you fail to see is how many businesses still value college because of the soft, and hard skills developed there. College may not always be fun, but taken seriously can allow interested students an opportunity to find out who they are and what they value. If you haven't already read Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite I highly recommend it. Where the author and you agree is on the need to radically rethink higher education. Where you part ways is what that should look like. Still, you do effectively challenge the notion that the government has the answers. Keep up the good work.

  • J. Siegfried
    J. Siegfried 10 months ago

    Hey Jacob you have some good points there but I somehow do disagree with you. I live in Switzerland and I am certain that the wealth of this county is strongly linked to further education and uni being free for everyone. 20% of the population has a university degree. We have the highest GDP per capita after Luxemburg and the highest rate of innovation. This obviously depends on having a good school system and universities. Anyways, you rock dude! I bought your awesome Ultimate Review Pack, love it and your videos.