Monday, December 11, 2006

Free tuition for 10 years in Wisconsin

The Journal Sentinel reports this morning that a state commission is considering a proposal that would offer free tuition to UW schools in exchange for a commitment to stay in WI for 10 years after graduating.

The argument is that Ireland instituted this kind of policy and has now become the most dynamic economy in the EU.

This does seem like a fun, radical way to help higher education here, but practically I can't see it happening. Would a large number of college graduates who have promised not to leave bring us additional high quality jobs? Or would we instead be caught with a large number of underemployed, bitter young people?

I think it might be a great way to reinvigorate our state before all the manufacturing jobs slip away. What does everyone else think?

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Outstanding idea to help bring an end to the "brain drain" in Wisconsin!

Anonymous said...

There should be some kind of exception to allow for spending a year abroad after college.

Aside from that, it's not the worst idea I ever heard, but it sounds a little too much like a prison term.

Bill Wresch said...

If you don't mind, I will use a business analogy for this one -- you can manage primarily by cutting costs, in which case you are simply postponing backruptcy, or you can manage primarily by raising revenue, in which case your compamy will grow. Obviously you need to do both, but if your only approach to management is cost cutting, you will be the last CEO your company ever has.

What does this have to do with college tuition? This state has been run for decades on cost cutting. We assume limited income and then see where we can cut -- prisons? medical assistance? education? Legislators act as if this state has no future growth possibilities. And, if we become a state of retirees, they will be right.

Dropping tuition is the first real growth idea I have heard out of Madison. I hope it approved. More importantly, I hope it is the first of many more growth ideas. Otherwise, we will all be witnesses to the state's gradual decline.

lammers said...

Certainly reducing the cost of education will do a lot for the quality of our citizenry.

I'm reminded of an anecdote I read the other day. A man had placed a set of four reasonably good snow tires he no longer could use out on the curb with a sign that said "FREE." No one took them. So after a week, he changed the sign to read "$25." By the next morning, they'd been "stolen."

I worry that a student who gets a free education may value it less. If a thing is worth having, it is worth paying for.

I wonder if it might not be wiser to offer *half-price* tuition to those who agree to stick around a while. This would have the added advantage, theoretically, of benefitting twice as many people for the same cost.

Lake Winneblogo said...

Tom,

Your analogy isn't really correct, since college isn't simply a good to be purchased.

If we keep our standards up and demand quality work out of our students, students will graduate with a set of skills that has intrinsic value to themselves and society.

Whether they pay for it is irrelevant to that.

In fact, we might benefit from free tuition, in that the consumerist mentality would be gone. How could they insist that they "paid" for a college education? Instead, we can insist that their payment is their hard work.

I heard this morning on WPR that the board approved this idea, suggesting that the state take out loans to pay for it. . . .

lammers said...

Winnie Bloggo said:

>>Your analogy isn't really correct, since college isn't simply a good to be purchased.<<

Well, Lord knows *I* have certainly embraced that viewpoint on more than one occasion. I despise the "consumerist" view of education. So, point well taken.

>>If we keep our standards up and demand quality work out of our students, students will graduate with a set of skills that has intrinsic value to themselves and society. Whether they pay for it is irrelevant to that.<<

Well, maybe yes, maybe no. You yourself have suggested many times that we CANNOT do those things you mention for fear of various sorts of unspecified pressure or retaliation. You have bemoaned many times that it is very difficult if not impossible to "get tough" and impose rigorous standards. Will handing out free tuition remove that problem, or exacerbate it?

>>In fact, we might benefit from free tuition, in that the consumerist mentality would be gone. How could they insist that they "paid" for a college education? Instead, we can insist that their payment is their hard work.<<

If it were presented that way -- that YOU owe society for what we've given you -- that could indeed be a good thing. We got you educated, now be productive and contribute to society. If, however, it becomes an entitlement, I see all sorts of horrors coming out of it.

I'm wondering what happens to the student who gets a year or two of free tuition, then drops out. Does s/he pay back the state? If so, it would be a powerful incentive to do well and see it through. It could also generate horrible stress -- "I'm just not ready for college, but if I quit, I'll be $20,000 in debt!!!"

No, I think the answer is not FREE tuitiion but far more affordable tuition. If you want to get all socialist about tuition, why not scale it to family income? Single working moms pay less than a CEOs kid, etc. That might do more good, getting more people into college, by spreading the money around more.

tt mule said...

Well, on the consumerist note--if we offer free tuition, at least student's can't complain about grades because "I paid for this class, you owe me!!"

(Kidding. I think.)

Anonymous said...

On scalable tuition - one thing to remember is we aren't all sponsored by mommy and daddy.

Why should I be punished for my parents' poor financial management when it comes time to scale tuition?

The same goes for financial aid as it stands now.

lammers said...

Anony,mous said:

"On scalable tuition - one thing to remember is we aren't all sponsored by mommy and daddy."

Of course. If a student is financially independent, it is his/her finances that will dictate scalable tuition.

Anonymous said...

lammers said:
"Of course. If a student is financially independent, it is his/her finances that will dictate scalable tuition."

That's an excellent idea and an equitable way to do things, but I thought I should mention it since it isn't currently the case when calculating financial aid.

Lake Winneblogo said...

The governor of Indiana has proposed a similar program -- though he wants to use the lottery to pay for "loans" for tuition that would be forgiven if the graduate stays instate.

http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061215/LOCAL19/612150472&theme=