Public universities should be free

Tim Goral's picture
Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Public education should be free. If it isn't free, it isn't public education.

This should not be a controversial assertion. This should be common sense. But Americans have forgotten what the "public" in "public education" actually means (or used to mean). The problem is that the word no longer has anything to refer to: This country's public universities have been radically transformed. The change has happened so slowly and so gradually — bit by bit, cut by cut over half a century — that it can only really be seen in retrospect.

But with only a small amount of historical perspective, the change is dramatic: public universities that once charged themselves to open their doors to all that could benefit by attending — that were, by definition, the public property of the entire state, as a whole — have become something entirely different.

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