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As so many people are calling for public (taxpayer) funding for universal college education (loan forgiveness, “free” tuition, etc.), what is the broad public good that justifies public funding of universal college attendance? The broad social benefit? The practical challenges of public funding of college are extensively argued elsewhere, so there is no point to rehashing them here. Instead, what are we trying to accomplish by encouraging everyone to attend college? What is the public goal?
In the United States, primary school education (grades 1 – 8) became publicly funded at least in part on the belief that a republic of free citizens functions only if most of those citizens have some basic capabilities to be able to conduct business among themselves and inform themselves so they could choose effective elected representatives: Read and write at a basic level, do basic arithmetic, know some amount of science and history, have some understanding of how government is supposed to work, and a few other topics.