Hillary Clinton and her fans [notably Chris Matthews] have had a fine time ridiculing Bernie's proposal that public college education be free. Matthews especially cannot control his smirk as he says, in a stagey incredulous voice, "He wants to make Berkeley and Madison, Wisconsin free!," somehow imagining that the cost of higher education bears any direct relation to its quality, as though it were a house.
Well, at two a.m. this morning I decided to check a few facts. Here is a sample of what I found:
Gross income per capita in the United States: $15480
Gross income per capita in France: $12,445
So America is somewhat richer than France.
Percentage of adults 25-34 with a B.A. in the U.S.: 43% [higher than I thought]
Percentage of adults 25-43 with a B.A., in France: 43%
So America and France educate the same proportion of adults at the tertiary level.
Average in-state tuition at public universities and colleges in the U.S.: $13,856
Average tuition at French universities [almost all public]: $ 585
How can this be? Simple. France has made a collective public decision to make college essentially free, just like elementary and secondary education. America has not made that decision yet. Bernie says we should.
Can we afford it? Yes, somewhat more easily than France can, because we are somewhat richer.
It is that simple.