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What are the pros and cons of offering a free college education to American students?

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I don't think anyone would disagree that one of the best ways to build up our country is to build up the education level of our citizens.  People with higher levels of education are better able to earn a living, are better prepared to take active part in leadership of the country (i.e., politics and government), are less likely to become involved in criminal activity, and are less of a drain on social services (welfare, unemployment, social services, etc.). 

With this in mind, many people, including President Obama and a few of the current Presidential candidates, have expressed the opinion that we should find a way to offer a free college education for anybody who wants it.  This would most likely be through the community college system that we have in place. 

On the positive side, this would achieve all the goals I mentioned in my first paragraph.  However, a college tuition is not free, so the cost would have to come from somewhere -- most likely through increased taxes.  There is also a concern that by opening up the doors of higher education to all people, the quality of that college education is likely to get "watered down."  In short, if everyone starts getting a college degree, then the value of that degree will decline, and employers will start looking for more.

When my grandfather graduated from high school, that was a big accomplishment.  When my father graduated from college a generation later, THAT was a big accomplishment.  Now, many professions require not just a bachelor's degree but also a master's degree, for even an entry level position.  This problem would only become more enhanced if more and more people are earning degrees.

The concept is a good one.  But we need to be careful that it is executed properly.

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