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OPINION | Barry Richard: Free College Would Cost A Fortune

umass-dartmouth-630x472Massachusetts lawmakers are considering several bills that would make part or all of college education free or debt-free for a segment of the population.

When will these do-gooders learn that nothing is free? Someone has to pay for it.

Should one of these plans become law would the instructors agree to work for free?  Would book distributors agree to waive the cost of textbooks, some of which cost hundreds of dollars?  Would UMASS President Marty Meehan hand back his six figure salary?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

By some estimates, free college could cost Massachusetts between 500 million and 700 million dollars annually.

So, who pays for all of this “free?”  Right again.  We do.  Either through direct taxation, (the so-called “millionaires tax”), a proposed tax on certain higher education endowments and gaming revenue generated by the as-yet-to-open casinos.  These are just a few of the funding ideas being floated but you know as well as I do that eventually it won’t be enough and the state will set it’s eyes on you and me for more.

What criteria and income guidelines would be established to determine who gets the free college?  Would there be minimum GPA requirements for receiving and maintaining free college?

According to a recent study by George Mason University the Massachusetts economy is in the tank.  Massachusetts is listed as 48th in terms of financial stability behind only Illinois and New Jersey.  Part of the reason for this is that we spend much more money than we take in and then borrow money short term to pay our bills.  Our savings are meager compared to other states.

What happens, when like this year, revenues do not meet projections and cuts have to be made?  What goes first?  Funding for mental health?  Local aid to communities for police and fire?  Free college?

Rather than reduce spending on idiocy and invest in infrastructure and our future, lawmakers are looking to create another hole to throw taxpayer money into.

It’s often said, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”  Massachusetts is broke, literally and figuratively, and it is time to fix it.  We need to reform higher education so that is not such a financial burden on students and their parents but not at the expense of the taxpayers.

Free college is not free and letting our elected politicians tinker with the system can only guarantee it will get worse.

ditor’s Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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