Free College Is Not So Free “€“ With Mary Clare Amselem: Is higher education a right? Who is going to pay for the “€œfree”€ college Bernie Sanders talks about? Should the U.S. really follow in the footsteps of European countries or learn from their mistakes? Tune in to hear Mary Clare Amselem discuss the factual answers to these questions and more!

Air Date: 02/25/2020

Guest: Mary Clare Amselem

On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.

Faith and the Culture

Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. It’s WallBuilders Live, we’re talking about today’s hottest topics on policy and faith and other areas of the culture. But we always look at those issues from a biblical, historical and constitutional perspective. We have that conversation with David Barton, America’s premier historian and the founder of WallBuilders, also with Tim Barton, national speaker and pastor and president of WallBuilders. And my name is Rick Green. I’m a former Texas legislator and America’s Constitution coach.

Check us out at wallbuilderslive.com, it’s our main website where you get all kinds of great information, including archives of the program. Which means if you missed any shows last few weeks, just go to wallbuilderslive.com today and you can pick those up. Whether it’s our Good News Friday programs, it has a lot of great news from across the nation and around the world or maybe our Foundations of Freedom Thursday programs which you will enjoy hearing the questions of our audience answered on everything from Declaration of Independence principles to specific Founding Fathers to constitutional questions to application of biblical worldview to the issues of the day, we do that on Thursdays with our Foundations of Freedom Thursday program and you can send questions in for that as well. Just send them into radio@walbuilders.com.

Also Monday through Wednesday, we typically have an interview with someone that’s either on the front line somewhere in the country, maybe a Senator or Congressman or an activist or an attorney, or someone from a think tank or whoever it might be, those are typically Monday through Wednesday, which is what we’re doing today.

Join Us!

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As a listener supported program, we greatly appreciate all of you out there that have been given those one time contributions, many of you doing monthly. Thank you. Thank you. We appreciate you. And this program has been made possible because of you.

Alright guys, later in the program, we’ve got a guest on from Heritage Foundation to talk about the free college proposals from these president candidates on the Democrat side. Which of course, you know, it’s only fair that David, you and Tim should pay for my college, my kid”€™s college, their kid”€™s college and everybody else in Dripping Springs. I just think that’s only fair.

Tim:

I want to know if I can turn in receipts and get reimbursement.

David:

Well, I’m going to go back to something that I’ve said in our family forever, forever, or at least for as long as I’ve been raised, you know.

Tim:

I mean, you’ve been around a long time.

David:

I”€™ve been around a long time. So maybe it is forever.

Tim:

Forever is ever pretty.

David:

Yeah, I got the white hair to go with that. And that is you’re not allowed to use the word fair. Fair as not a word you can use. You can’t even say it in the Hebrew, which means it didn’t cross God’s mind. The sun was fair.

“Fair”

Fair is all subjective. And it’s fair for who? You know, there’s a lot of things I think should be fair for me that nobody else agrees with me on. So you got to take that word. So Rick, you can start this again without using the word, fair. So how you going to make your argument without that word?

Rick:

Yeah, let’s see. It’s only, oh, I”€™ll play the AOC card. It’s only just.

David:

Oh, nice”€¦

Tim:

Well right and here’s what’s silly about this whole conversation, guys. Is right, we are in a battle over words where the words have become subjective, it’s semantics and they mean different things to different people. But this notion that something can be free, right, well college should be free. Well, free for who? Because nothing is free in and of itself.

David:

Can I ask question here? Can you guys name anything to me where free is actually free?

Rick:

The napkins at Chick-fil-A. No, no, they got to pay for that. That”€™s right.

David:

You pay for that.

Tim:

The air you breathe.

David:

Okay, that may be close. That may be close. I couldn’t think of anything that really is free. I mean, we’re told all this stuff is free. Even the grace of Jesus is not free. It cost him a lot”€¦and high price for him and for us to live out that life, should be a high price for us. I can’t think of anything that really is free.

Rick:

David, you”€™ve said all your life. So I’m going to say my dad has said my whole life, there ain’t no free lunch. That’s the way he always put it. There ain’t no free lunch. It’s always in the price of the meal.

No Such Thing as “Free”

Tim:

Well, and something, dad, I mean, you mentioned I think it’s such a great point. Right? We talked about God’s love or Jesus or salvation, it’s a free gift. Well, it is free for us. But an incredibly high price was paid, so it could be free for us. And this is the problem when we talk about something being free, Rick, right. To your dad’s point, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, meaning that somebody had to pay for it. So it might be free to you, it’s not free for everybody else. And if we start talking about free college, free health care, who is it free for? Because”€¦

David:

Well, a free guaranteed income is also part of what they’re having to [crosstalk 04:43]

Tim:

Yeah, the basic guaranteed income. Who is that free for? Because somebody has to pay for it. And what happens when you move from the person receiving it to the person paying for it? And this is one of the problems with socialism, is we want to reward people who are not productive. We punish the people who are productive. And so we’re disincentivizing people to work hard and be productive. We’re incentivizing, we’re encouraging people to not work hard, not be productive, which is why socialism never works out in the long run, on top of the fact that they control the means to production. So they hinder the market, they hinder entering the market with entrepreneurship. There’s a lot of problems beyond just that surface level. But this is where, I don’t think most people are having an intelligent conversation or accurate conversation when it comes to what is free and how is it free and probably something we should dive into after the break.

A Moment From American History

This is David Barton with another moment from America’s history. It is a definite biblical teaching that every individual answer to God for the stewardship with which he was entrusted. Previous generations therefore realized that not only what he was answer to God for how we handled our life and our family and our possessions, but also for how we handled our country.

Consequently, voting was considered an act for which we were directly accountable to God. As Samuel Adams explained, “€œLet each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote, that he is executing one of the most solemn trust in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country. He should then appeal to his conscience that he is not trifled with that sacred trust.”€ Voting is a serious responsibility for which Christians will answer to God. Therefore make sure that you vote and vote biblically in the upcoming elections.

For more information on God’s hand in American history, contact the WallBuilders at 1808REBUILD.

Free College for Everybody?

Rick:

We’re back on WallBuilders Live, talking about free college for everybody and what’s fair, what’s just, all of those different things and we figured out that even the napkins at Chick-fil-A are not free. So stop grabbing extras and sticking them in your glove box everybody”€¦ Go ahead, guys.

Tim:

Even if it is their pleasure.

Rick:

Even if they say my pleasure when you walk out with a whole container which you should not do.

David:

You’re raising the price of chicken nuggets for everybody else when you say those kind of things.

Rick:

You really are. It’s the truth. That’s what my dad always said. He’s like, you know, when people grab extra stuff, he’s like, they have no idea. They’re running up the price on their own hamburger and then not for Chick-fil-A, it was other places. Anyway, go ahead, guys.

Tim:

Well, alright, and this is one of the interesting things, even listening to some of the debates, Democrat debates going on, where we’ve heard different people talk about what’s going to be free. And one of the question always comes up, how are you going to pay for that? This is where there’s a massive breakdown because Bernie Sanders won’t really answer how are you going to pay for stuff? He always talks about theoretical concepts and philosophies and when people are going to have to do a little more and work a little harder and give this and, right.

Elizabeth Warren has been one of the few people who actually was putting a price tag on some of what she said and that’s why she’s been getting destroyed. Right? That’s why she jumped so far and jumped is wrong, right, that nosedived will be correct.

How Is This Going to Work?

She nosedived because when people begin learning, wait a second, we’re going to have to pay for this and I’m going to have to pay for somebody else to do and that’s not appealing and attractive. But we’re not asking the question, who pays for this? And how is this going to work?

And by the way, one of the things our good friend, Bob McEwen talks about is when the government takes your money, so it’s not their money, to buy something that they’re not going to use, which is what is the, by definition of third party purchase, the quality of that, whatever they are purchasing or creating, the quality of that object, of that item, of that good, that service is going to be incredibly less than if the free market control that. You said, hey, instead of giving my money to the government and letting them buy something for me, why don’t I keep my own money and I’ll buy what I want and that way, I care about the quality and the price because it’s my money, so I care about the price and I’m going to consume it or utilize it so I care about the quality of it? When the government takes money that Is not there to buy something they’re not going to use, they don’t really do a good job controlling the expense of that program or the quality of that program, which is also another major problem. We talked about all the free things government is going to do. Government doesn’t generally offer really good free things on any level.

Look at Other Nations

David:

Well, the other thing, I think that we have going to guess this is in America, we’ve got kind of, I don’t know, a quasi-high arrogant attitude. It’s like, well, you know, it doesn’t work for other nations, but it will work here in America, we can make anything work. Well, that’s not necessarily true. We’ve got the experience of other nations that have done free college and they’ve done free health care and whatever and it doesn’t work there. And so too, on the one hand, think that well, they just haven’t done it the American way. You know that’s an arrogance that just doesn’t hold up.

And then there’s also folks that just don’t know that has been tried. I mean, it just sounds good to them. And when they start hearing that it has cost to it, they don’t like it and that’s why Elizabeth Warren starts plummeted in numbers. So you’ve got this double factor going. Part is ignorance, we just don’t know that doesn’t work. And part is arrogance where we say, well, it’ll work for us if we do it.

We saw an article from Heritage Foundation that came out that really address this and kind of pointed out the facts that people in America are ignoring. I mean, it sounds good on paper, but there is a cost because there is no free lunch. There is no free college, there is no free guaranteed income, there is no free health care. And so she did it in such a good way. We thought this would be a really good discussion to have on WallBuilders Live.

Rick:

Mary Clare Amselem from Heritage Foundation with us when we return on WallBuilders Live.

Patriot Academy

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Welcome Mary Clare Amselem

Rick:

Welcome back. Thanks for staying with us here on WallBuilders Live. Mary Clare Amselem is with us from the Heritage Foundation. Mary Clare , thanks for your time today.

Mary:

Thanks so much for having me.

Rick:

I’m trying to decide which of your headlines I like better. I love them both. So the college affordability act is unaffordable. That’s a great one from two months ago. And then you got what now, a free college would be a disaster. Just ask your…. Okay, first question. Just be honest. Do you come up with the titles because those are really good?

Mary:

Some, I do, yes. Thank you so much, I appreciate it. Yeah. The college affordability has been on affordable, was sort of a layup and, it’s just so obviously expensive. So that was an easy one.

Rick:

And so very true. So the Left loves to offer all these free programs that somebody’s got to pay for. And so you dive into the economics of it, and why nationally, this would be an absolute disaster. Help us just quickly understand. I mean, other people have tried this. So this is not like we’re coming up with a new idea. You’re right. You just asked Europe, what would Europe say if we ask them?

Mary:

Exactly. We’re constantly hearing, you know, politicians and policymakers on the Left, say, you know, look at Europe, they’re doing all these policies. Why is the United States so behind? And when we hear that often in healthcare. You know, Europe has socialized medicine, why don’t we as socialized medicine here?

Not a Success in Europe

And so it’s sort of a parallel for how we think about free college. And so in my paper what I sort of breakdown is, well, this has not been a success story in Europe, in fact, far from it. Many European countries have abandoned their short experiments with free college, many still have it and see, you know, pretty negative results. I like to point out that 50% of entering first year students in French universities drop out after the first year. And so that’s a massive waste of taxpayer money to be sending students to school”€¦

Rick:

Which kind of make sense, right? They got no skin in the game, you know, it’s free so hey, why not, I’ll go try this and then, you know, wasted money for the taxpayers, but also wasted time and purpose for those students, is bad for everybody.

Mary:

Oh, absolutely. I mean, it’s important to remember the opportunity cost. I mean, this is time the students aren’t spending working at a job, learning skills. You know, I’m sure most people out there would agree that that most of what you really learned about the job that you’re doing, you know, happens in the workplace. And so those are very important skills.

And if we start to treat higher education as something that everyone has to do, that it’s right that everyone should go to a very lengthy four year expenses, the university, we’re getting away from the purpose of higher education, which is to separate yourself, which is to show that you have some extra credential past high school that is meant for very specific career paths.

Wasted Money

But if we are simply saying that regardless of, you know, what you want to do with your life, regardless of what you want to study, you should simply go to college and figure it out, well, that’s very costly for many students and in a free system for taxpayers of that country.

Rick:

That is such a huge point what you’ve said. So the whole idea of college separating you out from the field, as soon as you send everybody, it’s no longer separating you out. I mean, this basic idea that college is for everybody ruins the real purpose of college.

Mary:

Exactly. If everyone has a bachelor’s degree, then no one has a bachelor’s degree. I mean, if we make that the new standard that everyone entering the workforce must have a BA after their name, then more people will be seeking out and MA or a PhD or you know, a doctorate or a law degree, things like that. That’s why we’re seeing and, you know, the wonky term for what I’m referring to is called “€˜Degree Inflation”€™. If we simply send more people to get these more years of education, we’re going to see people along [inaudible 15:32] time they’re in school, regardless of how long they actually needs to be in school, it’s one of the skills that they need. It’s not really responsive to that, it’s responsive to the how competitive you are with your peers.

Degree Inflation

And so this is something that we need to, you know, back up and completely reverse the trend on and go back to a sense of, okay, well, what are the jobs out there the students will be applying for, what are the skills that they need and then let’s tailor our education to match those skills, rather than simply trying to compete with each other for how many years you can stay in school.

Rick:

It’s good “€˜Degree Inflation”€™. So that isn’t just, you know, inflation in terms of cost, I guess that’s inflation in terms of the individuals time investment. If your bachelor’s degree, now means nothing, now you’ve got to get the law degree or the doctorate degree or whatever the advanced degree is to get yourself to stand out. So now instead of spending 4 years of your life on campus, you got to spend 7 or 8 or 10. And by the time you get done with all of this now, your late 20s, early 30s, you’ve got all that debt to pay off. I mean, it’s just a bad deal. I mean, I understand if you want to spend that extra time because of a specific field that needs that extra time, but we’ve inflated what you need for college is what you’re saying with “€˜Degree Inflation”€™.

Mary:

Oh, absolutely. And I think he made a good point that the costs are also inflating. So everything is inflated when it comes to higher education. And unfortunately, I think that’s what happens when we see the federal government get involved in the way that it has where we see the same thing happening in healthcare.

Healthcare Prices Inflate

Once government is gotten more intimately involved in healthcare, we see how healthcare prices inflate and we’re seeing the same thing happen on college campuses. So in order to really reverse this degree inflation trend and cost inflation trend, we really do need to be looking to federal policies to take a step back.

Rick:

It”€™s going back to your comparison to Europe, because like you said, it means very much like healthcare. I’ve never understood this idea of looking at failed policies in other countries and saying we want them. I mean, if I was going into the restaurant business, I wouldn’t go to the ones that had failed and say, hey, how’d you do what you did I want to do that? I’d go to the ones that are doing well and want to learn for them. And we’ve, you know, used to have best education, best, you know, healthcare in the world, why would we want to copy these countries that have failing systems? But we keep trying to do that in so many areas.

Mary:

And I think it’s simply just a lack of information is out there, which is why I wanted to look at these countries and say, okay, let’s sort of break down what the actual success rate is. I’ll use England as an example. England had free college from about the 60s to the 90s. And then they reinstituted tuition because it was simply a disaster. I mean, the problem with these programs is that they’re on own set budget and eventually, that budget runs out.

The Exact Opposite of the Desired Effect

And so what happens much like healthcare is that Russia needs to occur. So University started had to limit by law the number of students that they could admit and then that severely closed out higher education opportunities from low income students, from minority students, which I would argue is probably the exact opposite effect that many who instituted this policy would like to see happen.

Rick:

Sure.

Mary:

We also saw you know, resources per students significantly declined to the amount of money that a school spends on educating at that student significantly declined. And so we see quality get affected in that way as well. And so once we saw England reinstitute tuitions, saying okay, you have to start paying again, which I’m sure you know, was met with a lot of groans, we did see those negative trends that I mentioned reverse. So students, they were more higher education opportunities, the quality of education increase, things like that.

And so there is something to be said for having some skin in the game, like you mentioned before, for having some value put to that education. That doesn’t mean we should be paying astronomical prices that we do now. But having some reasonable market base prices do have some positive effects in the long run.

Rick:

And those market forces are the only thing that will bring that price down. As you said, at the end of your article, if you put the decision making back into the individuals hands, then eventually the market will respond to that. But if somebody else is picking up the tab and paying for and individuals have no reason to try to get the price down. You folks at Heritage Foundation always do this for me.

The Data

I have a gut feeling of the way things should be, but I can’t articulate it or back it up with data and boom, here you come with the data and the articulation of why this is such a bad policy and why the right thing to do is to put the decision back in the hands of the individual. So thanks for what you all do. Keep it up.

Mary:

Of course, thank you so much.

Rick:

Heritage.org is where you can go to get more information. That’s Mary Clare Amselem as our expert today on this issue, Look forward to having you back again, Mary Clare .

Mary:

Thanks so much, anytime.

Rick:

Thanks to the Heritage Foundation for the good work they do and for Mary Clare coming on with us today. You can get those articles web links today at wallbuilderslive.com. Back with David and Tim now. Alright guys, I guess it isn’t fair or just for you to have to pay for my college and my kids and my grandkids and everybody else in Dripping Springs.

David:

Well, I thought there”€™s so many defects she pointed out should cause anyone to at least stop and think about it. Alright, so France makes free college for everybody and then 50% of students drop out after the first year. Well, that was a big waste of money. You know, we gave this free college for half the kids and one year later, they’re out. Rick, as you said there was no skin in the game. There was really nothing that they had to lose for it. So we’ve got this vast outlay of money that is forever wasted and we got no productivity out of it.

England Quit

Tim:

You know, I thought was interesting too when she mentioned that England doesn’t even ask free college anymore. Because the way you hear it, it said that well in Europe, they have free college. I was totally under the impression that there was free college all over Europe. I didn’t realize that there were several nations that have now gone away from that because they recognize it’s just not sustainable. It doesn’t work. It wasn’t productive. I knew the quality was not great in many places. I knew that if you wanted the quality, there were private institutions that you would need to pay for. And there were some basic information I had, but there was more stuff I learned about this. I thought that’s really interesting, because England is something that we often compare some similarities of our nation’s and there’s somebody who’s already tried it and they said this was not a good idea.

David:

Well, I thought that she made a couple other points that just struck me as I hadn’t thought of them in that way, particularly looking at Europe. But if we all go to college, then no longer are you using college to separate yourself out and be something different and there’s a reason to hire you that there isn’t for everybody else. If everybody’s got the same stuff, then nothing stands out about you and there’s no reason to give you any more. Which all leads to that kind of socialistic kind of thing where we squish everybody in the same box, we make you all conform. But that concept of not being able to stand out, not being able to separate yourself and that’s what higher education was all about.

Rationing

And so, you know, the match was made, you get a degree inflation as result. When everybody is got a degree, it’s inflated to the point to where that there’s no value to it anymore. And so you get this degree inflation. And the other thing I thought was really significant was when this happens and you start getting everybody having it, then you start have to ration it, you get into ration it. Made sense with healthcare. You’ve only got a certain amount of money in the pot for healthcare, so we’re going to say that your hip replacement is not as important as a heart transplant for somebody else so you don’t get a hip replacement.

Well, it’s super important to you, I mean, as a quality of life issue. But you get into rationing and the same thing happened in education, that now you’re having to ration education. So it puts the government in charge of your education again, all the things you thought you were getting, you’re no longer getting. So I thought it was really super significant. I guess, I was reminded of Ecclesiastes is 1:9 that there really is nothing new under the sun. You know, for Americans, we may think that we’ve got a creative edge on this, that we can do it in a way that’s going to work and you look around the world and say, no, they already tried exactly that same thing. And it didn’t work. No, they tried that too and it didn”€™t”€¦ No, you can’t do that one. I mean, there really is a lot of lessons for us here from across the world that should help us shoot down this mentality of free stuff, including free college.

Ignorance and Arrogance

Tim:

And you know, Dad, you mentioned this earlier, is two of the biggest problems we have are ignorance and arrogance. We just don’t know. And then sometimes we’re arrogant enough to think but we can make something work that’s never worked before ever. And that, to some extent is kind of true with America, American ingenuity. We’re really good at making things work. Nobody is ever been able to do this, we do it. It’s just that socialism was a different thing. Right? Like, there’s a reason it’s never worked. Because this program, this economic structure, this government control structure, it’s not sustainable. And certainly, it’s been a great time in America to have a conversation about things that people should have learned a long time ago. And it’s very clear that many Americans have not learned this. So this is a great time for all listeners. This is a great time to start engaging conversation, start helping teach people why free things aren’t free and why these are not always beneficial things. Free education, not education you want. You want a good education that will help you be somebody and do more in life.

Rick:

Well, friends at home, we appreciate you listening today to WallBuilders Live. Special thanks to Heritage Foundation, the good work that they do there. We love bringing this information to you. There’s so much, I mean, I love just learning. Every day on the program, it’s been one of the great privileges of my life to work with David Barton and Tim and the WallBuilders team for the last couple of decades, just every day learning something new about America’s founding or biblical application of these principles.

Become a Student of Freedom

And I would hope and really hope to challenge you to become a student of freedom as well, that you enjoy this learning and then become a force multiplier that shares it with your friends and family so that you’re increasing the education across the country.

We actually had a guest on months ago, that said, ignorance is curable. That is so true. In my own life, it’s true. So many things that I’ve been ignorant about and because someone was willing to take the time and teach me those things, it empowered my life, made me a better father, a better husband, a better citizen, all of those things and that’s what we hope to do here at WallBuilders Live: is educate, inform, inspire folks just like you. But when you share it with your friends and family, it allows us to reach even more people. So please consider doing that today.

Free College Is Not So Free “€“ With Mary Clare Amselem

You can do it at our website, wallbuilderslive.com. Grab the links to today’s program or any of our programming throughout the week, share it with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter and all the social media outlet. And then of course, while on the website at wallbuilderslive.com, we do ask you to make that donation, you can click on the contribute button there and make a one time or monthly contribution. Those dollars are what make it possible for us to do all the things we do from the radio program, to the leadership training we do for young people, to pastors and legislators, so many things happening. And all the educational tools we put out, it’s because of supporters just like yourself. So today if you would consider giving up your life, your fortune and your sacred honor, all three, taking a little time, giving a little bit of your money and speaking truth by sharing these programs.

Thanks so much for being a part of the solution. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live.