Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

UMass woman’s basketball ends FIU Holiday Classic with 65-47 loss to Drexel -

December 29, 2016

UMass men’s basketball finishes non-conference schedule strong with win over Georgia State -

December 28, 2016

Brett Boeing joins UMass hockey for second half of season -

December 28, 2016

Springing the case for free college

I would have bet money on seeing pigs fly before ever hearing about a free college existing in the United States. Founded in 1917, Deep Springs College lies 28 miles into the California desert. Every student receives a full scholarship, and there is no application fee.

The all-male, two-year college runs on the basis of self-governance, which includes student input in the hiring of their professors. With a four-to-one student faculty ratio – compared to the 18-to-one here – and a population of fewer than 30 students, it gives new meaning to small class size. The undergraduate population of the University is in the realm of 20,500, a number just shy of being equivalent to 790 times that of Deep Springs. One floor in a UMass residence hall holds more students than the ultra-small liberal arts college.

The only hitch, if it can even be called that, is that all students participate in a minimum of Boardinghouse Crew work. Essentially, this measures up to doing chores like washing dishes and mopping floors. The work it takes to run the school doesn’t end there, with students working as cooks, ranchers, farmers and more.

It’s been nicknamed “the Cowboy College” for a reason. It sounds positively transcendental, and I think it’s safe to say Massachusetts natives Emerson and Thoreau would have approved.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But, many college students carry part or even full- time jobs through college as it is, so it seems more than a fair trade. Sweetening the deal is that many graduates transfer to Ivy League schools.

It sounds terribly ironic to go from free to the sphere of some of the country’s priciest, but two years of an Ivy is equivalent in price to four years in a public college. According to the Deep Springs website, the two years are valued at a cumulative $100,000.

To be fair, by reading the anecdotes from the student life/downtime section of the website it is hard to get the impression that Deep Springs is all work and no play. According to the school’s website, a student named Marc “once attempted to build a fertility goddess using 97 condoms and plaster of Paris but was foiled by mitigating circumstances.” Sounds like average college life to me.

One of the first thoughts about Deep Springs is, “what kind of internet scam is this?” But it is no scam. It is an honest to goodness free college. Then why isn’t its existence better known? The answer: it doesn’ have to.

Deep Springs has received some high profile attention in the past, including features by the New Yorker, NPR, and Vanity Fair. After all, who needs publicity when ‘free’ is in the description? The college has no problem filling enrollment, turning away seventy percent of applicants every year.

More importantly, there is a question that begs to be asked. Why aren’t there more schools like Deep Springs?

For one, it would knock some relevancy out of the student loans business. Debt-free college students? It’s blasphemous. That is, of course, if all colleges were free, which is a wild hope born of an even wilder stretch of the imagination. Given the successes of the graduates, why aren’t there more colleges like this? No demand? A lack of funding?

None of the answers seem to measure up as decent excuses. However, college is becoming increasingly more about the degree than the education. I couldn’t count how many times I’ve heard someone else, or said myself, in fits of frustration, I just want to get my degree and get out. How much truth is really in these statements? If many a truth is said in jest, then many truths are said at the brink of over-caffeinated exhaustion?

Is the lost love of learning in this country all to be blamed on the need to succeed? Are degrees and grade point averages more valued than the hard work, or not-so-hard work, it took to get them?

It is even present in the education debates that happen on the national level and in the proposals to make education more accessible. Too often are the reasons given in favor not for the sake of the education. Instead, it has become for the sake of where the education will get students in the monetary scheme of becoming productive members of society.

What then is the place of the free college in the U.S.? Is it valued for more for the price tag or the quality of education? There is no reason why the two can’t coexist, and I would be willing to bet that Deep Springs graduates would agree.

Hannah Nelson is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at hnelson@student.umass.edu.

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