The best way to fund higher education for students

I don’t care about students as a class of people. Students qua students are not compelling subjects to focus any particular concern towards. In fact, among the list of identities the left tends to talk about, students uniquely stand out. Consider this partial list: women, people of color, poor people, disabled people, LGBT people, and students. If you walk through that list one by one, you will notice that — holding all else equal — the counterpart to each list item is in the privileged position. A man who is otherwise identical to a woman finds himself in a privileged position. Same with a white person, rich person, able-bodied person, non-LGBT person, and so on. Yet when you get to the students the whole thing reverses. If you hold everything else equal, the student is the privileged person and the non-student is the non-privileged person. Shrug.

But seeing as this recent spat of discussion has often devolved into the most vulgar of appeals to what’s best for students, let’s actually describe what would be best for students. Believe it or not, this is a totally straightforward question and answer.

The best way to fund higher education (tuition, cost of living, and so on) for college attendees is to levy a tax against everyone who doesn’t attend college. That is, create a free higher education tax that applies to everyone except college graduates/attendees. This is clearly the best way to fund higher education from the perspective of students. They truly get to attend college without ever paying anything into the higher education system period (not even the higher education taxes that fund the system). Every other proposal will, relative to this one, be inferior from the most vulgar of perspectives that thinks higher education funding should aim to maximize the position of students.

If you believe we should be doing what’s best for students, this is what you have to advocate. Everything else makes students worse off, relatively speaking.