The University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) has voted to allocate $455 in funds to buy students coffee during finals week. While many are praising the decision, no doubt anticipating the need for coffee while studying for an exam, most are missing the fundamental economic mistake that has been made.
Student government, like all government, gets their funding through a compulsory system. It is basically a tax in that you can not be a student without some of your tuition going to UPUA. In this case that money is being used to buy coffee for the students. Students are essentially paying for this coffee at the beginning of the semester as part of their tuition. It is not therefore “Free Coffee”, as the cardboard sign will invariably say, but instead coffee you paid for and waited 4 and a half months to get.
At the very best, a coffee drinking student will get the coffee that he usually orders, except funded by UPUA. In this case the UPUA has provided no service to him at all, he receives the same coffee for the same price but in one case he has to pay for it more than 100 days ahead of time.
The case for most students however is not the best case. Most students will not receive any value from this “Free Coffee” because they either don’t like coffee, don’t have finals, or UPUA runs out of coffee before they get any. In this case they are paying for nothing.
Instead of economically inefficient projects like the “Free Coffee” the UPUA should, in the interest efficiency and economic freedom, stop spending tuition on services students could provide for themselves and instead work to lower the cost of tuition.