The problem with the “free college” idea is, however, not merely financial. It also reinforces the myth that college is appropriate or even possible for all students. That myth already has destructive consequences for both the quality of higher education and for some of the students caught up in what has become a multi-billion dollar hoax.
As unrealistic as it is, the idea that everyone should attend college has been embraced by Americans. By 1992, 95 percent of high school seniors said they planned to go on to college — even though half of them lacked even basic 9th grade math and verbal skills. These aspirations, however, had dramatic real-world consequences: In 1979 fewer than half of high school graduates enrolled in college. By 2012, that number had soared to more than two-thirds, and even with the dumbed-down curricula and inflated grades, many of them would have a rude encounter with reality.