Free College for All is one of the many policies that is currently being pushed by the Democrats — usually by the members who call themselves Democratic Socialists. This is a policy that is already costing Washington state huge amounts of money that we don’t have. We do not provide free college for everyone in the state yet, but they are headed that direction with the expansion of the State Need Grant (they even changed the name of that grant this year to take out the word “need.” It’s now called the Washington College Grant). The current expansion was paid for, but it was paid at the expense of other things. There are negative consequences for that decision.

For instance, Republicans were pushing for expanding services for mental health. We need more community mental health facilities, we need more mental health professionals in the schools, and we need the mental health hospitals that we do have upgraded and overhauled, to name just a few. We didn’t provide enough for mental health. Instead, we gave out more money for free college, and I just do not agree that free college was the priority.

Another negative consequence is the way we got the money. We slapped a 20% B&O surcharge on services including veterinarians and doctors. Many doctor-owned clinics like our local one that is closing this fall were already on the edge of survival because of Obamacare. If that 20% surcharge causes a clinic to close, it should be considered a negative consequence of providing free college. 

People tell me they provide free college in Europe, and we should do the same. But there are serious negative consequences related to that policy, too. In Europe, they start testing at a very young age, and the government chooses your career track based on that analysis. Do we want to lose the right to work for our chosen degree? Providing college at no cost to the student will reduce the student’s ability to freely choose. When the government pays, the government decides exactly how to spend the money. I do not find that acceptable. 

Free college for all is a policy that some people want. That’s fine. But I think it would be terribly damaging in many ways. All the policy ideas that have been mentioned in the recent debates and the possible consequences of those policies need to be discussed thoroughly, but I find these days that when a person tries to debate an issue, the discussion devolves into name-calling and attacking the other person’s motive. We need a good healthy debate on these issues before the policies are adopted, not after the damage is done.

Finally, there is no such thing as free! Those people who could use more mental health facilities this year are paying the price for the state deciding to use the money to provide for more free college. All those people/businesses who are paying the 20% B&O surcharge are also paying the price — some are even losing their businesses, because it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. All money spent by government is taken from the people, and it’s spent according to the priorities of those in power. You need to really listen carefully to the current Democrat candidates and their ideas — I think you will find their priorities don’t bode well for the good of the country. 


Ruth Peterson


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