The Coming of Age Credit: A Free Tuition Alternative
The Problem With the Solution
Student debt and college tuition are a problem. If not fixed soon, this problem will completely change the landscape of the American education and job market. To ease the burden, some progressive candidates are advocating free tuition at public schools. While I'm generally in favor of this model, I believe it's only part of the solution.
I went to a private, liberal arts college where I received a well-rounded, non-STEM college education. My education taught me how to write, how to think, and how to problem-solve. Most importantly, it taught me how to have empathy.
If we limit tuition assistance to only public schools, we're reducing some of the most enriching options our young people have. But of course, states can't fund private schools. So what's the solution? Fund the person, not the school.
What Is the Coming of Age Credit?
Simply put, the Coming of Age Credit is as follows: Once between the ages of 18 and 23, when a person decides the course of action they want to take in their life, they may apply to receive the Coming of Age Credit (CAC).
The CAC's value will be a tax-exempt sum equal to the average cost of an in-state four-year public institution tuition (currently about $40k in 2020) to be disbursed to the applicant. (I haven't thought this out completely, so some details such as lump sum vs. yearly disbursal must be thought out by the "experts".)
To apply, the applicant must present a four-year plan, which they have the agency and ability to carry through (as affirmed by references). While the plan can change, any abuse or misappropriation of the funds is subjected to heavy fines.
The CAC can be used for the following:
- Public school attendance: anything they don't use they get to keep.
- Private school attendance: it will partially cover the cost and lower the burden of loans and grants.
- Entrepreneurship: they can create their own business or nonprofit, invest in one. Applicants should show they have significant and efficacious mentorship. This includes the possibility of research.
- Enlisting: Those who enlist into the armed services get an additional amount equal to the CAC above and beyond what they would receive for tuition etc. It should be earmarked for mental health expenses or other re-integration initiatives
The Benefits of the CAC
- Flexible Paths: The biggest advantage of the CAC is that it allows for young adults to flexibly choose their paths for the future. College should no longer be considered the best or only option. Young people who choose other courses won't be left out of the financial assistance they so desperately need if they don't go to college.
- Low-Income Initiative: This plan is particularly helpful for low-income populations to get the leg-up they need, without funneling them into college, or allows them to go to college at much lower risk. Consider tacking on an extra 20% for each minority as "reparations".
- Stimulated Economy: With a better educated, less in-debt population, the economy will be even stronger. The ability to fund young people for business and research opportunities could lead to explosive and innovative growth.
How Do We Pay for It?
Unfortunately, I am no economist or political expert, but we've come up with ways to pay for crazier things. My guess is that in the long term this would actually stimulate the economy to the point where it would effectively pay for itself.
Abuse and Misappropriation
There will be people who misuse the funds or commit fraud with them. This is another one for the experts.
Changing of Paths
It's hard for an 18- to 23-year-old to really know what they want to do with their lives. So what happens when they change their mind about what they want to do? They can either 1) change to a different acceptable option to continue to use the funds, or 2) return the money they haven't yet used, with no penalty. They are not obligated to return the money they used, as long as they used it appropriately, because they used it to gain valuable life experience.
What are your thoughts? This idea will obviously provoke very powerful opinions on both sides, and it just a basic framework to a complicated solution. Please, politely, share your thoughts in comments, which will be heavily monitored. Together, we can all look for solutions to a better future.