Rights Versus Privilege – By John Reed

If it were possible to sum up the current political and cultural divide in a few words, I think it would be how differing groups define rights versus privilege. One group thinks the only rights citizens have are those specifically defined by the Constitution and its amendments. Another group thinks everything not specifically banned by the same document should be considered a right.
As usual, the devil is in the details…and that’s where lawyers and judges get to ply their trades.
As an example, the right to vote was initially claimed only by landowning men. Through various constitutional amendments, that right was extended first to freed slaves, and eventually to women. So far, nothing in there about allowing non-citizens, legal or not, being able to vote.
Many “rights” have come about through legislation. The right to attend a public school free of charge is one of them. Does that right include free public college as well? No. There’s a push from many on the Left to include that right, although no one has made a rational case for how to pay for it.
College tuition hikes have outpaced inflation for years. This is in large part because the federal and state grant systems don’t require any accountability. Since the colleges can count on their students getting that money, they have no incentive to hold costs down. Same is true in the medical field, but that’s for another column.
How many local students have gotten scholarships for college only to blow them with too much partying and not enough classwork? The same is true for college faculties with no leash on their federal funding.
Still, I recognize the advantage a college education can sometimes give to those entering the work force. So here’s my offer:
Free tuition to a public college if:
—the student graduates with a Bachelor’s degree and becomes gainfully employed within six years. If not, every penny gets paid back via taxes or salary garnishment.
—graduate degrees aren’t covered. By then, it’s time for the student to have some skin in the game.
—the student lives on campus, eats on campus, and keeps a clean disciplinary and academic record. Off campus living arrangements aren’t covered.
—the university retains the same tuition fees for the entire time the student is enrolled, or only raises prices in line with the inflation rate.
—costs to be covered by the student’s employers, amortized over several years. The students must agree to work at least a certain number of years with that employer, or repay the funds themselves.
Those who want to party for four years on the taxpayer’s nickel won’t like my suggestions. The free market capitalists won’t like the idea of paying for their employees’ education. So my idea is dead on arrival…but then so is every other plan to get something for free.

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