The Egypt “Lesson”

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It turns out that the piece from the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy last week arguing that too much college was the source of Egypt’s turmoil wasn’t an anomaly.

According to an article by Joshua Fulton in The New American:

Would you like your college education to be free? Sure, who wouldn’t? Better question: Would you like the results of free education? Well, the people of Tunisia and Egypt are learning that whenever the government supplies something, it is never really “free.”

Like Tunisia, Egypt also has a mass youth unemployment problem. Unsurprisingly, it also has a system of “free” college education. In Egypt, enrollment in tertiary education increased from 14 percent in 1990 to approximately 35 percent in 2005. Yet this has not helped the unemployment rate among recent grads. The national Egyptian unemployment rate is 9.4 percent, comparable to the United States, but the unemployment rate for people between the ages of 15 and 29 is 87.2 percent. College graduates, largely because of their age, have a 10 times higher unemployment rate than for those who did not attend college.

Too much college—and offering college too inexpensively—can cause political turmoil. Furthermore, Fulton believes the recent revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia can offer lessons:

Although our case may not be as extreme as in Tunisia or Egypt, we are headed in the same direction. And just like in Tunisia and Egypt, our education bubble is fueled by governmental policy.

Let’s just ignore for a moment the fact that this is just not true (we don’t have free college in the U.S.; we have the most expensive higher education for students and their families in the developed world), why is this being used a lesson in what’s wrong with free college?

In Egypt and Tunisia this unemployment was fueled by the fraud and incompetence of the states involved. But if free college leads people to overthrow corrupt dictators, free college seems like a pretty good thing to me. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer