I was recently asked to begin blogging on CNN's website. My first post appeared this week. In it I argued that college education should be an entitlement rather than a privilege open to those with the ability to pay for it. This isn't my idea–I wish it was! I borrowed it from Adolph Reed (UPenn political scientist), who organized for the issue in 2004.

Here's the key part:


…for me, politics isn’t just about the art of the possible—about what we can pass in the here and now. Politics is about expanding and extending that art, about pushing the borders to create space for even more change in the future.

How can we do that here?

What if, instead of proposing policies geared towards individual middle-class tax-payers that revolved around the assumption that higher education was an individual’s responsibility, the president instead proposed policies geared towards embedding higher education as an individual right. What if, instead of getting a tax write-off after you’ve already paid your son/daughter’s tuition, you instead didn’t have to worry about education because the government would pay for it?

The rest can be found here.

To say it's gotten traction is an understatement. As of right now there are over 700 comments, far more than anything I've written here. I didn't take the time to go through all of the comments–in fact, given the venue I'd say it's a bad look to do so. There's a great deal of anger and resentment in some of them and they make my head hurt. 

But what I want to do briefly is deal with two of the more thoughtful criticisms (based on an email exchange I had with a commenter):

1. On the idea that such a policy would explode college enrollments:

I figure college enrollments would probably increase, but given how small the costs of the program would be (even if we didn't take funds from some other line item) it'd be the equivalent of making penny candy nickel candy. In other words even 500% growth wouldn't be significant.

But more to the point if we ARE talking about a sizable increase in enrollments it makes my point because it suggests a number of people aren't attending college because they aren't smart enough, it suggests a number of them aren't attending because they don't have enough money.

2. On the idea that such a policy would reduce the value of a college education…

The association between "value" with "hard work" has become common sense. Here we suggest that perhaps making college free to students would make them less likely to appreciate or value it. I understand but don't buy the argument. Even if we allowed for the fact that someone like Paris Hilton may appreciate college less than someone who had to work five jobs, I'm not sure this works on average. On average I'd think there'd be less people who don't "appreciate" college than there are people who can't get in because they don't have the money in the first place.

In any case if this were demonstrably true we could attach such a program to work of some sort. Like the GI Bill.

Anyway, I appreciated the opportunity to chime in here.