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Why we should offer free college diplomas

The average value of a college diploma, taking into account the four years spent attending classes instead of working, tuition, loans - is $500,000 during the graduate's lifetime. (AP Photo/File)
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The latest study to shake up the income inequality debate comes from MIT Professor David Autor – who, by the way is not against inequality.

“Not all inequality is bad. In fact, you need inequality. It creates incentives,” says Autor.

He just wants to bring it under control a little. Which would happen, he says, if more qualified students attended college. Because the real inequality in this country isn’t the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent – it’s college grads versus high school grads.

The average value of a college diploma, taking into account the four years spent attending classes instead of working, tuition, loans – is $500,000 during the graduate’s lifetime.

That’s because college grads, on average, make twice what non-grads make, leading Professor Autor to conclude:

“One way to both improve well-being and increase mobility is to increase the supply of education.”

Well the thought occurs to me that if a college diploma is basically a license to print money, the government ought to immediately launch a search for talented people who might not be able to afford college and just offer to pay off their loans if they graduate.

The half million dollars they stand to make is taxable income. At the average tax rate of 11 percent, that $500,000 is going to bring in $55,000 to the US Treasury, which is about twice the average college loan.

So for every additional student who graduates with a college degree, the US Treasury stands to make money.

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