Is there a case for Free College?

The case for free college is not a new discussion or idea. It’s been done at different times in varying degrees in several states throughout our nation’s history. There are, of course, several compelling reasons to offer reduced or free college education to our nation’s citizenry. We do, after all, provide “free” schooling for students from K-12, so why not continue that on to a two or four-year degree from an institution of higher learning? Perhaps it is appropriate to implement at the state level, on a case by case basis, but should it be driven from a federal initiative or mandate instead? Let’s explore the issue and take a look several of the contributing factors. In doing so I hope that you’ll come away much better equipped to form and articulate your stance on the matter.

The call for free college in the United States was given new-found strength when former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders openly advocated for tuition free college at public universities and community colleges during his campaign and is still pursuing the issue in congress.

Further bolstering the attention given to the issue are the recent actions taken by the State of New York which passed legislation providing students of the state-run colleges free tuition, with a few caveats of course (like having to live and work in the state or the free tution converts to a loan). With the enactment of the new Excelsior Scholarships, New York becomes the fourth such state to offer some form of free college education to its residents. The question now is will the rest of the 50 states follow suit, or will we have a federal initiative to make college free for all?

Most everyone agrees that greater education leads to higher incomes and, generally speaking, more opportunity for advancement in life. Higher education is certainly the most viable pathway to escape the throngs of poverty.  The logic follows that by making college free for everyone that we will enable potential students, previously shut out of educational attainment, with a pathway to pursue their dreams through education. After all, one of the greatest challenges faced by employers today is the lack of people equipped with the necessary skills to do the work available. Wouldn’t free college help ameliorate this drag on the economy and national prosperity? A cursory glance at the subject would incline most to give a resounding “Yes!” to that inquiry.

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Conceptually and on the surface this makes sense. So where does the resistance arise to implementing this potential panacea to the economic woes of millions of Americans?

When dealing with issues of resources and costs there must be a return generated to justify the expenditure. Running a college campus requires immense resources. The buildings, the salaries of professors and administrative personnel, the payroll for grounds crews and maintenance, utility costs, student recruitment efforts and so on all contribute to the massive requirements to keep the institution up and running. So where will the money required to pay for all of this come from? The quick answer is taxpayers (that’s you for all the potential students that can get a job after college).  The governments responsible for implementing such a plan have no resources of their own, they get what they have from taxpayers, or the parties that buy the debt they issue. This is much less problematic at the state level than the federal level where taxpayers have a somewhat greater influence on their legislators.  Taxes will be raised and or debt will be issued (which taxpayers are also on the hook for) to pay for it all. This aspect offers potential justification for state led plans. After all, there is a strong case here for state’s rights and local decision-making. But, how do we gauge the return, or the value, gained by the citizens of the state, let alone the nation? Here is where we run into myriad issues that make such plans potentially problematic.

The most glaring issue is again, that of the return to society. It may not be emotionally satisfying or appeasing, but not all college majors are created equal in terms of economic or societal impact. There is no swelling trove of jobs awaiting philosophy majors. Society does not place the same premium on anthropology as it does on those trained to create the next wave of artificial intelligence programming. We do not value, as a whole, in economic terms, someone who desires to pursue a Ph.D. in medieval Scottish literature the same way we do a molecular biologist with their sights set on curing cancer. A college graduate that majored in a field where the starting salary for someone with that education is $40,000 will not provide the same level economic benefit as someone who produces $100,000 of output. This doesn’t mean they a valued lesser as a person, they are not, economic value and the intrinsic value of human life are wonderfully independent, but it does mean that their economic output is substantially less. This aspect alone is enough reason to give us serious reservations about such plans.

Now we venture into the issue of supply and demand. Generally speaking the more of something that is available, the less we tend to value it. If you have 8 bottles of water and I offer to sell you another for $5 you will probably tell me to take a hike (and rightfully so!). If you just got done running a few miles and there is no water at your finishing point, you are much more inclined to pay that $5 if I now offer you that bottle. This principle applies to education as well. There are already too many college students graduating with degrees that are simply not in demand by today’s economy. By making college free the trend would only be exacerbated.

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In addition to the already excessively high level of college graduates, in terms of economic absorption capacity by the real economy, there are myriad other issues that need intense scrutiny and thought before moving forward.  How would tuition rates be set nationally? Are all majors approved for free tuition? Where are all the extra professors going to come from and who is going to pay for them? Unitl the supply of professors increases won’t there be a diminishment of quality in the education provided as thinly stretched educators strive to adequately teach more and more students? What about building and equipment costs to handle the influx of students? How will we determine who gets into certain colleges with real limited physical capacity to handle the students? Will we do away with admissions standards? Aren’t they unfair after all? Shouldn’t EVERYONE be able to go to college wherever they want? These questions, and to be sure, innumerable more, aren’t reasons in and of themselves to dismiss the idea of free college, but they should give us serious reason to pause and thoroughly scrutinize the idea itself, let alone the means of implementation.

The notion of college being “free” is certainly appealing to, well, everyone that would like to go to college. The problem is that nothing is truly “free” and the costs of providing that education will be incurred by somebody and they will assuredly be substantial. We may not particularly like it, but today’s world revolves around output in goods and services and we value certain outputs more than others.  We have to ensure that we aren’t going to make an already ubiquitous problem worse by churning out more graduates with skills that simply aren’t in demand by today’s economy while doing so at tremendous real expense. Perhaps we should be exploring other options. Maybe we need to look at expanding the scope and scale of internships, apprenticeships, and more technical training for high skilled manufacturing jobs. Maybe we need more public private partnerships between industry and universities to train students for the jobs that currently exist and the ones that are coming. Perhaps we should explore more virtual solutions for education delivery like that of the Edx platform developed by Harvard and MIT, bringing low-cost and high quality skills and credentials to students around the globe. We need to be looking for solutions. Free college is potentially one, however is it the best one, or one among many? Time will tell as the discussion continues.

 

Michael is a believer in higher education, having earned a B.S. in General Management from Western Kentucky University and a M.S. in Finance and Economic Policy from the Unviersity of London. He also serves on the board of directors of the Kentucky Higher Education Assitance Authority and the Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation.

 

Tell me, what are you FOR

 Estimated reading time: 3-4 minutes

Tell me, what are you FOR?

We have choices in this world. We literally have hundreds, if not thousands, of choices each and every day. One of which is the way we choose to articulate our ideas, our views, our wishes, and our desires.

Do you wish more people listened to you? Do you wish more people came around to your way of thinking?

Tell them what you are FOR

If you want to build a better world around you, start by telling people what you are for instead of what you are against.

We can choose to frame our ideas, our arguments, and our desired outcomes in either a positive or negative light. In a world so full of darkness people are drawn to the light. They are hungry for it, they crave it, and they desperately want to find it. We can be that source of light by communicating our ideas in a positive manner.

We have the power to choose.

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This principle cuts across subjects. It transcends cultures. It is not inhibited by the audience’s or listener’s background.

We have become so accustomed, as a society, in our daily interactions to espouse what we are against. Sometimes this IS necessary. Sometimes we must take a stand for what we will not tolerate and where we will not bend. In certain cases loss avoidance is a better motivator for change than potential benefits. In the fields of economics and decision theory this is known as “loss aversion”.  In certain instances it is helpful to inform people of the deleterious effects of particular ideologies or actions.

But, more often than not, especially in trying to bring others around to our way of thinking, it is more effective to tell them what you are for, why a certain idea or action will BENEFIT them, and what they will gain from it. Describe to them how they will be made better off by adopting your point of view.

The list of potential examples we can apply this concept to is truly endless. From daily interactions to advocating for monumental changes in public policy there is no shortage of potential applications of this concept:

Do you want to see your significant other spend more time paying attention to you than nose deep in their phone on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram? Instead of nagging, griping, or complaining about it (which is sure to drive them even deeper into their phones) show them that interacting WITH you is the more attractive option.  Ask them to take a walk with you. Ask them to listen to an album with you. Ask them to help you start a project that THEY have been thinking of doing.

Do you want to see your local church filled to capacity? Tell people (and SHOW them) about the love of Jesus. Tell them about the beautiful community of fellowship you have at your church that they can be a part of. Tell them about the freedom they gain from worry, from anxiety, from despair, from bondage, from hopelessness. Tell them about what they gain when they come to know Christ. And let them SEE it in your daily interactions. Let them see the joy, the happiness, the love that is palpable in your life. Let them see Christ in you and the difference it makes in how you live your life.

Do you want to see a more free and prosperous society for all people? Then tell people about the virtues and benefits of liberty. Advocate for limited government and couch your arguments in ways that highlight the positive attributes of liberty to people.  Railing against Statism and big government won’t  win anyone over to our side of thinking. We have to show them why liberty is the best way and how it is relevant to their life.

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Do you want to see more people adopt a healthy lifestyle?  Show them how easy it can be to start exercising. Tell them about how easy it can be to start making better food choices. Help them imagine a life where they have more energy to play with their kids and grandkids. Help them understand that feeling and looking good will help them be more confident and comfortable in ALL areas of their lives.

Are you a proponent of competitive capitalism? Then tell folks how markets based upon voluntary exchange and unencumbered by excessive government regulation and intervention foster more competition and better outcomes in terms of lower prices and more choices for consumers.  Tell them how fewer regulations and government control afford fewer opportunities for cronyism and political representatives that aren’t beholden to special corporate interests.  Illuminate for them the greater opportunities THEY will have when taxes are lower and entrepreneurs can create more and better paying jobs.

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If we are going to move our society to a place where more people are happier, more free, more fulfilled, more peaceful, and more prosperous we have to create that world in our minds and our words first. We have to give others reasons to join us on that journey. To be certain there ARE instances when ideas and intuitions and ideologies must be decried and resisted, but we have to have something to go toward. It does us no good to complain about something without also proposing a solution. We must have and present alternative ways of doing things. We have to give them reasons to embrace those alternatives. We have to show people why our solutions, our ideas, and our polices will help them and those they care about live a life that they WANT. Tell them what you are for, tell them how they can benefit from it,  and tell them what you are building. Then invite them to come along.

 

The Battle over Repeal and Replace: President Trump is misguided in alienating the House Freedom Caucus and the constituents that elected them:

 

Estimated reading time 2-3 minutes.

Nearly every member of today’s GOP ran on the promise to repeal Obamacare. With Republicans controlling the executive and legislative branches this should have been a relatively quick and easy process. They have had, after all, a rather long time to be ready for the inevitable day that they would be in a position to enact free market reforms to improve not just insurance coverage, but actual access to affordable care. Why is it proving to be anything but that?

Enter the House Freedom Caucus.

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In what should be a given in the party of the GOP this is a group of Conservative Republicans and libertarians that has found it necessary to band together to do what they were actually elected to do: Respect the rule of law and follow the Constitution.

And President Trump is attacking them for failing to support the abysmal American Health Care Act proposed by Speaker Ryan.

President Trump, in his typically boorish fashion somehow deemed it prudent to fire off a series of Tweets aimed at this group of roughly 30 statesmen, including conservative stalwarts Reps. Thomas Massie, Justin Amash, Jim Jordan and Raul Labrador

The day after Speaker Ryan pulled the bill due to a lack of votes to pass it, Trump tweeted  : “Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club for Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!”

And on Monday, he tweeted “The Republican House Freedom Caucus was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. After so many bad years they were ready for a win!”

Today, Representative Thomas Massie  from my home state of Kentucky fired back in this quip in his typically trenchant fashion.

Massie Tweet

Instead of attacking fellow republicans that are holding out for true reform that will bring about an improvement in Americans access to affordable care, President Trump should be actively engaging them.  He should be focused on finding ways to pass a more sensible plan like that of Senator Rand Paul’s Reapeal and Replace bill that simultaneously repeals the ACA and implements a health care policy that restores the inherent sovereignty of the consumer to choose their healthcare plan and providers, increases competition in the marketplace, returns power back to the states and reduces the scope of federal government intervention. President Trump is missing an enormous opportunity to bring unity to the GOP with this misstep. Despite the grublings from establishment types,  I’m thankful the members of the Freedom Caucus are doing what they were elected to do.

It’s time we demand better from our elected leaders. Here’s how we get there:

1,194 words. Estimated reading time: 4-7 minutes

Do you want to see a better and more productive congress? That’s very likely to be a highly rhetorical question for most of you. Nonetheless, I’m supposing you answered in the affirmative.  I thought so… me too. So, how do we get from where we are at a near average 28% approval rating to a point where at least 50% of our country thinks congress is doing a decent job?

Before we get to that answer, let me briefly describe what I consider to be a “better and more productive congress”.

Such a congress would ONLY take up legislation authorized by the constitution and these issues revolve around national defense as well as interstate and international commerce. That is it. The rest is up to the States.

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This congress, for a time, would repeal more legislation than it produces. That position is the exact inverse of what many analysts consider “productive”. In their minds the more bills passed, the better! Our founding fathers knew this folly all too well.

James Madison and Alexander Hamilton asserted in the Federalist No. 62 in 1788:

“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.” 

How many federal laws do we actually have? No one knows for sure because they are, in fact, so myriad. Michael Cottone, writing in the Tennesse Law Review estimates the number of criminal offenses between 3,600 and 4,500. Matt Vespa writing at Townhall.com states the number at over 5,000. This doesn’t include, according to congressional testimony the federal regulatory violations carrying criminal penalties that exceed over 300,000. According to the Heritage Foundation research congress criminalizes, on average, one new activity every week all year-long.

We cannot be a nation of laws, one that respects the rule of law, if it is absolutely impossible to know if you are actually breaking the law.

Further, a productive congress would repeal burdensome regulations that are not able to pass a rigorous cost-benefit analysis. A shining example our national congress could follow is that of  Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s Red Tape Reduction initiative. So far this initiative has resulted in the elimination of 147 regulations with 117 more targeted for repeal, 156 have been amended and 361 more targeted for amendment. This effort, combined with active recruitment efforts has resulted in over 21,200 new jobs in Kentucky at 342 new or expanded facilities with an investment of over $5 billion. That is good news for Kentuckians and an example Congress can follow.

Now, very few people (the majority in fact) seem to be happy with Congress these days and I count myself among them.

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WHY?

Why do we seem to continually find less than capable and corrupt people in government?

The political environment we have created is so noxious, so repulsive, so hostile that truly good and capable people do not wish to subject themselves to the level of vitriol and disdain directed at them when running for public office. This is also nothing new. Alexis de Tocqueville discusses this very issue at length in his classic literary work, “Democracy in America”. The most capable, the most desirous, those of the greatest virtue, the best suited for the job, those people among us largely want nothing to do with being a public servant.

Can you blame them?

Would YOU be willing to subject yourself to the level of scrutiny and continual hate and disdain these people endure?

Only the most power-hungry and “any ends justify the means” type people, save the rare exception, will endure what it takes to ascend to the national level of the body politic.

We, as a society, scrutinize EVERYTHING that a current or potential politician does and if there is even the slightest hint of something we disagree with it is a travesty of unparalleled proportions and virtue signaling outrage ensues.  Yes, a high level of scrutiny and accountability is necessary, but we have taken it to the utmost extremes. Who among of could really cast the first stone?

We should also exercise better restraint as a society and wait for the facts to fully materialize. We respond to headlines and take things out of context without seriously looking into how things actually are. We are SO very quick to cast damning judgment without giving politicians or policies a real chance to prove their merit or effectiveness.

How do we fix this?

We get better ourselves. We demand more of ourselves. We resolve to control our tongues. We resolve not to fall for click-bait headlines. We refrain from sharing disparaging memes with no basis in reality whatsoever. We hold to our respective areas of actual knowledge when choosing to engage others online and in actual dialogue. I’m not going to comment on subjects of which I know nothing about. We must exercise better judgment in knowing the difference between an uniformed opinion and expert testimony. We must demand better and we must, as a society, become more virtuous.

James Monroe, our fifth president, in his inaugural address prognosticated:

“It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt,
when they degenerate into a populace,
that they are incapable of exercising their sovereignty.
Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found.
The people themselves become the willing instruments
of their own debasement and ruin..”

Essentially, when we devolve as a society in knowledge and mores, we elect those among us that are equally lacking in principle and capability, thereby undermining our freedom and the degrading the state of our country.

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James Madison, one of my favorite founders and our 4th President, eloquently describes the situation in which we find ourselves today along with the remedy just described.

But I go on this great republican principle, that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks–no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. If there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.”  at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 20, 1788.

Since we all desire better representation it is essential that we elevate the level of virtue, the level of principle, the level of discourse, the level of kindness, the level of compassion, the level of knowledge and the level of love in our society. It starts with each of us. It can be done. For the sake of our country and future generations. We must.

“United We Stand, Divided We Fall” Our common bonds in Christ Jesus and Secular Humanity

 

This is the message the underpins it all. This is the most important thing that I will ever say to any of you. We have never been more divided as a nation since the Civil War. This need not be the case. Join me in this video for an exploration on the common bonds that unite us and how, by focusing on coming together, we can restore our families, communities, states and nation to true greatness.

Building the world we wish to see

 

You may have been told that the world is just the way it is and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. People may have told you that you are powerless to incite change, to drive progress, to be an example for others. They told you that it wasn’t up to you to push the envelope, to innovate, to lead the way. They told you that you couldn’t make a difference.

But what if they were wrong? What if they told you that simply because they couldn’t imagine doing so and therefore you shouldn’t either?

I want you to understand, in no uncertain terms that they are, in fact, wrong. You are capable. You have been equipped. YOU have the power to literally change the world. And it all starts from within.

Desire is expression seeking possibility” – Wallace Wattles

You feel the desire deep within, ready to spring forth. You know there is “more” out there. You might not be sure how to let out what you feel burning inside you. That’s ok, this is a process, a journey, an exploration and development of the latent gifts, talents, and tools God has placed within you. It doesn’t have to come out all at once. It can be a work in progress. Often times it is. And that is ok. This blog is going to be a resource for you to help you actualize, to release, and manifest the potential within you into the reality you seek to create.

If you are here, with me, then it’s highly likely that we share at least some of the same desires. We have a similar vision. We want to see the world become a better place, not only for ourselves, but for the rest of humankind. Not only do you want to witness this betterment, you want to be a catalyst for the good of the world. You want to give and receive love. You want better opportunities for yourself and your children. And for your children’s children. You want to feel a part of your community. You want to see your fellow man and woman treated with fairness, justice and equality. You want the opportunity to pursue your life, your liberty and your happiness. Together, you and I can bring about the world we wish to see. We have the desire and WE can make it happen. And it all starts from within.

This blog is going to cover and be many things.  Here, in the ensuing posts, I will cover and share the lessons I am learning, the books I am studying, the languages I am exploring, the lectures I am listening to, the discussions I am having. I’ll write clear and concise analysis on contemporary topics typically shrouded in arcane complexity- in an effort to help equip you as you become more informed and persuasive in your sphere of influence. I hope and believe you will help me do the same as you share your knowledge and experiences with me. I’ll cover nutrition, exercise, my journey into the martial arts of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Krav Maga (I’m still a beginner in that world!). We will explore economic policy, social issues, and current events. Not every post will be exactly relevant to you, but there will be something in almost every submission, that if you join me in the exploration and discussion, you will be able to take away and apply to your immediate world, In doing so you will be helping to bring about the improvement you so passionately desire.

As you and I learn and grow and our thoughts become our words, and our words become our actions, we will inevitably be changing the world for the better. We will be making our vision a reality.

And THAT is really exciting!  

In love, strength, and unity,

Michael L. Keck