Blog Casual Friday: Mr. Potter’s Free College

I’m going to try out a new feature on my blog.  On Casual Fridays, I may post something a little less polished, share a few thoughts, or throw something out for discussion.  Here is something that’s been hanging around in my drafts.

We would do well to take another look at It’s a Wonderful Life now that the holiday happy haze is passing.  It might be useful to take some social-political lessons from this film.

Remember the bank run?  Remember how everyone wanted their money from the B&L because the bank was going to close for a week?  George Bailey had to explain to them all that, although Mr Potter’s offer to pay 50 cents for each dollar deposited at the bank looked like benevolence in a turbulent time, Mr Potter might have other motives. Mr Potter wasn’t selling; he was buying.  He was picking up bargains.

Each person had worked hard for the money in their B&L account.  Mr Potter was taking advantage of their panic (which as it turns out, he created), and returning to them half the value of their money.  He was stealing the rest. He was buying these people.  He would have no competition for control over their lives.

Now we are having free college for everyone dangled before our eyes.  Sounds great and about time, right?  First you orchestrate the need: college under federal funds has become unaffordable. For everyone.  So we want free college.

Do we forget, or do we just not care, that federal funding means federal control—over content, among other things.  The gov’t is not offering you a bargain; it is monopolizing the educational content over your lives and will tolerate no competition in the marketplace of ideas.  The fed gov is buying all influence over your minds.

Public school extended through grad degrees. But public school was such a great deal, right?

As for low-cost college:  don’t give me that anymore.  It was a great idea to spend the first two years in community college, saving thousands of dollars while getting your required basic courses out of the way.  But as the cost bar is raised, it’s raised for everyone.  Community college is no longer the place to go for technical training while you’re working; it’s become grades 13 and 14 for public school grads looking for direction.

My kids (and we) are having a great deal of trouble paying for community college. Not only has the cost gone up, because the industry can smell the money just as well as all the other college entities. They know they have a huge captive audience for their services. The abstruse financial aid maze is really incomprehensible.  You pay up front, and late in the semester, you may or may not receive reimbursement for some of it. Only the Magic 8 Ball knows.  If we had the money up front,  we wouldn’t be applying for finaid.

Also, when the fed gov has everyone occupied at community college, including people who otherwise would be pursuing other things, delaying adulthood for two more years, they won’t be noticing that they can’t get jobs.  Which says to me that the gov knows there still won’t be any. Just get them all gov dependent.  That is the goal.

8 thoughts on “Blog Casual Friday: Mr. Potter’s Free College

      1. tildeb

        Yeah, we are but without debt. In Canada, we have a program called Registered Educations Savings Plan into which we started making small contributions at birth so that when post secondary came around, the money was theirs to spend on whatever further study they decided to undertake. With paid co-op work terms built in for some, students can graduate, with relevant work experience and a sizable bank account.

        Because I don’t think post secondary should just be about job training (our community colleges are designed in partnership with various industries and institutions for just this), I think the university model is broken. Students pay a premium price for a moderate education and then assume the degree (if not professional) should magically transform into a well paying job rather than what it should be: how to think well and gain wisdom and to enhance the quality of one’s life regardless of ‘career’ path.

        The German model offers not just free education and free training to qualified students but also reliably and consistently produces fine tradespeople. They are the economic powerhouse of Europe (along with a mandatory 6 week vacation). To assume government involvement (and union involvement with establishing the training needs of industry) will automatically lead to government dependence and a lack of jobs is not just flat out wrong but actually contrary to reality. Yet you seem to believe your own beliefs!

        Government as a democratic social institution seems to produce much better results for its populations AND industries. But the knee-jerk negative reaction by so many Americans against their best interests put forward by government comes clothed as the bugaboo ‘socialism’. This negative reaction is a learned response much like Pavlov’s dogs that keeps the bulk of the population dependent on enhancing the private interests of the mega-wealthy sold as they are on the dream of someday joining their ranks. It’s wishful thinking very similar to the same hope that fuels buying lottery tickets. And that seems to me what post secondary education in the States has become: a lottery its people buy into and heavily invest in the hopes of one day finding and keeping a well paying job.


  1. madblog Post author

    tildeb, I cannot refute your account of your own experience with college funding in Canada, nor can I speak with authority about the situation in Germany. Though I would pose some questions regarding trade-offs. I’m glad you’re finding a way to work it out successfully.

    We agree on what an education ought to, and used to be. My children are writers, theologians, artists, and aspire to be college educators and contribute to the culture.

    What I can tell you is that the situation here is an unmitigated mess. And it does seem to be because of gradual, clumsy intrusion by the state and federal governments into a once free-market system. Because of abiding suspicion of a socialist system, attempts to establish what I have described has had to be done with stealth. Haphazard implementation of opposing purposes have resulted in a mess.
    In Europe, wholesale socialist solutions do not need to hide; they are welcome.

    College Ed is an industry which is cynical, greedy and arrogant.

    What I have described in the post is our experience. Some of my kids chose to do two years at community college before transferring to pursue a bachelor’s. But even they are struggling financially just to make it through community college. They’re rightly questioning whether they’re willing to saddle themselves with the astronomical debt required for the bachelor’s or the master’s degree.

    Because colleges receive federal money, they raise tuition. That’s just reality. The cost rises to meet the offer. It’s a vicious circle: government makes college money available to students; students get or borrow money to pay; college takes federal funds plus loans borrowed by students, plus every penny student has scraped together; cost goes up; availability of federal funds meets the need; funds are applied to facility upgrades; so costs go up; availability of federal funds…

    It will not continue; it can’t. The only questions are when and exactly how it will implode.

    Students have a choice today: go to college and get a questionably-useful degree and owe huge amounts of borrowed money for literally decades, or skip college and remain debt-free, but wonder if you’ll be able to make the living you need. There is no third option; it is quite impossible to “put yourself through college” today. Our college system is broken and the kids and families are the ones paying.

    I don’t think many people have any illusions about college degrees leading to mega-wealth. I just want my kids to get started in life, hopefully making a living at the thing they’re suited for and aspire to do. We’re using the same faculties as we would to play the lottery, really? Pavlov? I see you’re still unable to complete a single comment without heaping condescending disapproval and insults on huge swaths of fellow humans. You were going pretty good there for awhile, but you just had to go there.


  2. Wally Fry

    It’s funny. Education is great, and I encourage everybody to get as much as they need. My son got a full ride to a decent university on an ACT test and music scholarship; now he waits tables for a living. My daughter, who could done the same, blew it off and is beginning a promising management career. Dad did all the university and the whole thing, managed people for years. Now Dad works outside all day on ladders, in attics, and under houses. I had an uncle years ago who was an HVAC guy. Offered to bring me in and teach me and let me have it all some day. I turned it down and went for the education. Looking back I wonder what I was thinking! I more or less ended up in a trade anyway.

    University education is not for everybody is what I am saying I guess.


  3. madblog Post author

    Here’s an article of 3/20/15 from the NY Times re: student debt. We can’t even analyze what will happen when, not if, lots of students fail to repay the federal loans…because the information is, surprise! not available for analysis. No transparency, no accountability from our gov’t. I’m shocked.

    It’s a closed system in which students have one place to go for funds and taxpayers are liable when students default. It will be a lot of money.


  4. insanitybytes22

    Good post. I’d really like to see more trade schools and apprenticeships and greater support for blue collar work. We’ve gotten very elitist in this country.

    Not to be impolite but many people graduating from our very best schools can hardly function in the world. I know many people who have started their own businesses right out of high school, who are actually quite successful, while those with four year degrees remain unemployed year after year.

    Liked by 1 person


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