Just because something is free, it doesn’t mean it has no value.

Okay, so apparently some people think that if Bernie Sanders were elected POTUS, and he was able to make higher education in the United States free, it would make higher education essentially worthless. Their reasoning goes a little something like this:

If college were free then everyone would go to college, right? Universities would have no entrance requirements whatsoever and would accept anyone who applied. And you would certainly not have do any studying at all in order to graduate, so naturally everyone would finish college. Therefore, every single person would have a degree, even the people cleaning public toilets. Everyone would demand a living wage. The impact on the economy would be disastrous.

Do you really want to live in the kind of world where everyone makes a decent living? What about our god-given right to piss and shit all over the poor just because they’re poor? That’s what Jesus would do.

Anyway, if you are one of these people, please keep the following in mind:

The idea that everyone is going to have a degree just because college is free is ridiculous. Here in Sweden, it’s believed that you shouldn’t have to pay an extortionate amount of money or saddle yourself with a huge debt in order to obtain a college education. Therefore, tuition for higher education is free. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone goes to college. Some would rather start working right away, just like in the United States.

Furthermore, the value of a university degree here is not diminished in the slightest just because you weren’t charged any tuition. University degrees are not easy to get and universities are extremely selective, more so than in the United States. After all, they want to make sure they aren’t wasting tax-payer money on someone who isn’t completely qualified and committed. I have two degrees and excellent transcripts from a top liberal arts university in the States. I have tried twice to get into university here and they’ve rejected my application both times. And yes, you still have to study your ass off in order to earn a degree. A four-year bachelor’s degree earned at an American university is worth only three years’ worth of credits here.

It’s totally nonsensical to assume that just because something that is free it has no value.  A “free” university degree here in Sweden is actually worth a hell of a lot more than one you bought and paid for. After all your hard work, you were deemed worthy and granted the enormous privilege of being accepted to a university and earning a degree. And NO ONE takes that lightly.

One thought on “Just because something is free, it doesn’t mean it has no value.

  1. Well argued. Just one question: is an American bachelor degree worth only 3 years there because you don’t have advanced degrees? That would make perfect sense without denigrating the quality of American education. Here, a bachelor degree is a minimal degree–it covers a core curiculum common in most degree programs, plus introductory level work in a particular area, your major. After that, there are advanced graduate and post-graduate degrees that narrow the field of focus and intensify the workload. Most Master’s Degrees are 2-3 years’ additional study. Then comes the Doctorate progam or PhD, which is an additional 2 years or more in which a candidate must demonstrate his or her complete mastery of a subject sufficient to teach at the highest levels. If Sweden only offers one level of degree, that would explain the difference in credit. It’s a matter of over-lap. One concern about free education in the U.S. is that the Masters and Doctoral programs remain the responsibility of the student–this would help assure dedication without deteriorating the quality of the programs.

    More people are seeking college degrees now in the U.S. than at any time in her history for one reason only: it has been a common belief that a degree was necessary to earn a living wage in America which goes to the wage disparity issue and not to the educational ones. Degrees are worth now less than they were because wages have flat-lined since 1980 across the board–and not because so many people have them that they’ve become common place (as is the myth). Only 28% of the American workforce is college educated.

    Boutght and paid for isn’t automatically less valuable than free, either. You went to school here. Did you skate? Was it simple? Did you have to work a job, as well as your studies? Did you graduate top of your class(es)? Liberal Arts degrees are genearally geared toward the articulation and expression of thoughts and ideas–not right answers, but well-reasoned arguments. Science degrees are much less that, so while I in no way disparage the ability to write and communicate clearly a set of well-reasoned ideas or the skills or dedication it takes to master such skills, I don’t think they’re the most competitive or difficult degrees to obtain. I don’t think any degree program is wasted or that they are simple or rote achievements. And while I agree that there are unscrupulous educational institutions in the U.S., I don’t think just dropping $50K at the front door is any guarantee of graduation.

    Education and what’s happening to it in America is a complex issue and should in no way be viewed strictly from a political viewpoint.

    Lastly, is the denial of your application for a degree in Sweden predicated by your American degrees? Is it possible that they concluded in light of the fact that there are others who wish to attend who do not have a first degree that other applicants should get preferrential treatment? What i mean is, we have a thought process in regards to college admissions that includes “ability to benefit.” In a competitive environment, the person who will benefit most from a particular award is given the award. It’s not just a question of who wants it.

    It’s great to see so much engagement in this topic. Hopefully, that means we’ll come to some equitable solution soon.

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