College Is a Commodity, Not a Right

College is a commodity like bread, meat, cars, and homes. It is not a right like life, liberty, and property.

When two people discuss ways to fix the broken American higher education system, and one believes it should be cost-free, they usually talk past each other. They’re simply on different wavelengths.

One is discussing ways to make it so students get what they pay for. The other doesn’t believe students should be paying anything because they don’t see higher education as a commodity.

Here’s how it works: someone pays money to an institution; the institution provides them with the knowledge to pursue a career — no different than someone paying money to an auto dealer in exchange for a car.

Few Americans who believe education should be free believe so because of practicality. They tend to support free higher education on principle. To them, it’s just one of many steps to abandon the capitalist system of exchange. A deeper conversation with them reveals that there isn’t much they consider worthy of commoditization.

But if higher education is too important to be bought and sold, what isn’t? Food? Shelter? Clothing?

If someone’s answer is all of the above, then how much of the above? And who decides how much? A democratically-elected committee?

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