'Free' college is actually a good deal for Maryland

In his commentary, “The case against 'free' college tuition” (April 23), conservative Towson University Professor Richard E. Vatz flunked his own course in persuasion.

First, he argues that free tuition to community colleges is not really free because taxpayers would foot most of the bill. But he knows that's not what is meant by "free." The idea is to make tuition free to students who can't afford to go to college otherwise. In the late 1950s, then Towson State Teachers College students who promised to teach in Maryland for several years could go to Mr. Vatz's own school "free" to help bolster the ranks of young teachers. When I attended then-Baltimore Junior College in 1962-1964, tuition was about $100 a semester, and my part-time union job at Food Fair paid the bills. No more.

Mr. Vatz argues that now, community college students drop out at higher rates than others, but never considers the possibility that the high costs of college might be an important factor. Most community college students work while in school. Some have to take time away from the classroom to rebuild their finances.

Conservatives often claim worry about government spending on people they feel are undeserving (or who might vote for Democrats), but they don't mind running up a trillion dollar debt to cut taxes and "help" billionaires and big corporations. Instead of constantly trying to punish lower income people struggling to improve, perhaps conservatives like Mr. Vatz should instead try to help support people being squeezed out of America's prosperity.

Mr. Vatz is trying to persuade Gov. Larry Hogan not to sign the community college tuition bill, but hopefully, his very weak arguments won't prevail.

Larry Carson, Columbia

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