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Peter Van Buren – Commentary: For $178 million, the U.S. could pay for one fighter plane – or 3,358 years of college

Does free college threaten our all-volunteer military? That is what Benjamin Luxenberg, on the military blog War on the Rocks says. But the real question goes beyond Luxenberg’s practical query, striking deep into who we are and what we will be as a nation.

Unlike nearly every other developed country, which offer free or low cost higher education (Germany, Sweden and others are completely free; Korea’s flagship Seoul National University runs about $12,000 a year, around the same as Oxford), in America you need money to go to college. Harvard charges $63,000 a year for tuition, room, board and fees, a quarter of a million dollars for a degree. Even a good state school will charge $22,000 for in-state tuition, room and board.

Right now there are only a handful of paths to higher education in America: have well-to-do parents; be low-income and smart to qualify for financial aid, take on crippling debt, or…

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