22 January 2021
The idea that 44.7 million college students in the United States, a first-world country, graduate with an average of over $30,000 in student loan debt each, makes no sense. The fact is that today, those 44.7 million Americans are in a total of $1.56 trillion of student loan debt, and that should definitely make you question post-secondary education, and more specifically college. And the question you should be asking is: why are we still paying for college? At this point, we shouldn’t be.
The idea of free tuition is that all public colleges’ tuition would be state-funded. The only payments students might make is for housing, food, and books. Now you may be wondering: even if the decision is made to open free college tuition to all students, then how will it be paid for? Most European countries with free college tuition are able to do it by having the government pay for college through their higher taxes. The bright side of the higher taxes is they typically provide more services than just free college, such as free healthcare. Nevertheless, government-funded tuition is usually the last step. Students are to get money from places like scholarships and stipends first and then the government will pay the rest.
It should be noted that in order for the United States to have free college, it would cost about $79 billion a year, according to an article by The New York Times. In 2016, however, the US spent $91 billion on college-related policies alone. Logically, if they can spend that much on policies, then they should be able to move some of that money into making tuition free.
According to Edvisors, a network about planning and paying for college, about two dozen countries provide free college. It’s about time the US hops on that bandwagon. Developed countries like France and Germany provide their citizens with free education, and they’re some of the richest countries in the world, according to a recent article by Investopedia. Given that these wealthy countries have already done it, arguments that it could be bad for the economy could be disproven.
Some say that free college makes no sense, given that most students come from well-off backgrounds. But if you think about it, that’s exactly why college should be free. According to a 2011 survey by Pew Research Center, 75% of Americans believed college was too expensive for most Americans to afford, and the price has only gone up since then. With that being said, if college was too expensive, then it would only make sense that a wealthier group of Americans would be the ones mainly attending.
Therefore, if college were free, those lower-income students wouldn’t have to worry about missing out on the opportunity. As stated in a 2019 Forbes article, 70% of people drop out of college because of financial reasons, so it’s safe to assume even more don’t even bother attending for those financial reasons. More students who don’t come from those “well-off backgrounds” would be more likely to enroll and stay if college were free because those financial reasons that would have previously made them drop out would be mostly eliminated.
In addition to free college tuition diversifying the incomes within college campuses, there are other reasons college should be free. For example, there’s the simple fact that the price of education has just gotten too expensive. Today, the average price of tuition is $10,440. Twenty years ago, at $5,170, it was less than half of that. That’s about a 102% increase of the price of college in just twenty years, and it’s only growing.
If you somehow just can’t get behind the idea of free tuition for college students, try thinking about it this way. Free tuition doesn’t necessarily mean free college. By making college tuition free, there are these unintended consequences that are made possible by free college. Free tuition would be an investment, and there are other ways students would be paying back their tuition besides money.
For instance, if college were free, students would be paying in time. As stated by CNBC, 70% of full-time students work. Also, according to a recent article by the National Center of Educational Statistics, 25% of college students are part-time. If education were free, not only would people be more inclined to go full-time, but those who do wouldn’t feel the need to get a job to pay off their tuition.
Additionally, free college would allow students to pay by contributing to our society.
“When people cannot afford education, we all suffer, as they are far less likely to be employed, paying taxes, sending their children to school and contributing to our communities in other ways,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab in an article for the Wall Street Journal.
Education is a key component to keeping our society on a path of growth. If education were free, then more people would go. And if more people could go, there’d be less of those people that Goldrick-Rab mentioned. This would allow for more qualified people in our society, which we would ultimately get paid back for in growth and innovation.
There are many reasons why people shouldn’t have to pay for college. Education is something unattainable to many and the United States has the means to give it to us for free, so why shouldn’t they?