Free or nearly free college tuition is offered in at least 26 countries including Austria, Brazil, France, Germany and Mexico, according to Britannica ProCon. If this is the case for 26 countries, the United States, as one of the wealthiest nations, should be able to find a solution for free college tuition as well.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, tuition at public four-year institutions more than doubled over the past 30 years, and the average student loan also more than doubled from the 1990s to the 2010s.
Isn’t it a bit crazy that college tuition in the United States is increasing dramatically instead of decreasing to make college a more available option to students?
The U.S. Department of Education‘s website states, “Even as a college degree or other postsecondary credential or certificate has never been more important, it has also never been more expensive. Over the past three decades, tuition at public four-year colleges has more than doubled, even after adjusting for inflation.”
These inflating costs of college is the very reason why many students are limited to few colleges that would allow them to enroll and graduate without large amounts of debt.
All while this is happening, the United States spends more on national defense that exceeds that of China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil combined, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
The federal government should shift some discretionary funding from the military to higher level education because everyone deserves a fair chance, the fact that student loan debts are increasingly enormous, and this being beneficial to our society altogether.
Everyone deserves a chance at going to college and if students wish to attend elite colleges, they should have the right to do so without being held back by financial problems. When it comes to applying for and committing to colleges, many have to take into consideration the cost of everything beforehand which can largely limit students’ college options. This is one of the many stressful steps when it comes to college applications.
According to Britannica ProCon, Max Page, Professor of Architecture, and Dan Clawson, Professor of Sociology, both at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, stated: “A century ago high school was becoming a necessity, not a luxury; today the same is happening to college. If college is essential for building a career and being a full participant in our democracy as high school once was, shouldn’t it be free, paid for by public dollars, and treated as a right of all members of our country?”
Seeing as the world today practically requires and revolves around a good, high-level education to obtain a high paying job that would make one successful in the future, everyone should be allowed an opportunity to attend elite schools.
According to a 2017 article in The Atlantic, “as many as 95 percent of schools are out of reach for low-income students.”
Imagine how many people’s lives could’ve been different if they had a fair shot at higher education.
Another benefit of having free-tuition is that there would be a decrease in student debt. It’s well known to everyone that college graduates come out of school with increasingly huge amounts of debt.
A 2018 Forbes article states, “there are more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. alone,” according to Make Lemonade.
Despite this mounting student loan debt, colleges are still raising their costs.
Britannica ProCon states, “Student loan debt has risen 130% since 2008, and public college costs have risen 213% between 1987 and 2017.”
Compared to back then, college and higher education is often crucial to having a successful job in today’s economy, but these debts surely heavily weigh down these students’ bright futures ahead of them.
Making college more accessible to a larger population could ultimately benefit not only the individual, but our society as a whole by increasing college enrollment and graduation rates which generally can improve the number of workers in specialized jobs as well.
There has been a case in the past that has proved this claim to be true. In 1947, almost half of all college students were military veterans which was because of the Gl bill signed by President Roosevelt in 1944 to guarantee military service members, veterans, and their dependents could attend college tuition-free. This Gl bill which allowed for millions of veterans to receive higher education had helped expand the middle class.
With tuition paid and less student debt, students can pay the economy back by buying cars and houses. Additionally, this could increase the country’s intellectual capacity.
A 2015 APM Reports article states, “The Bill funded the educations of 22,000 dentists, 67,000 doctors, 91,000 scientists, 238,000 teachers, 240,000 accountants, and 450,000 engineers, as well as three Supreme Court justices, three presidents, a dozen senators, 14 Nobel Prize winners, and two dozen Pulitzer Prize Winners.”
To many people, education is a big step to success in the future. With more workers in different industries, higher education would assist the United States’ economy.
However, some might argue that there are already programs like financial aid that help students pay for higher level education costs.
This financial assistance not only covers tuition but fees for room, books, supplies, and transportation as well. These aid programs are either based on needs or merit which then comes in forms of grants, scholarships, work study or loans. Many students would be eligible for one or another.
The 2020 Sallie Mae/Ipsos survey “How America Pays for College” found that for an average American family, scholarships and grants covered 25% of college costs in 2019-2020.
This 25% is not enough for some families. Moreover, not all types of financial aid are free. Aside from scholarships and grants, federal student loans are accompanied with interest rates from the government that these students will have to eventually pay back.
A 2020 article on the Federal Student Aid website states, “For each loan type, the calculated interest rate may not exceed a maximum rate specified in the HEA. The maximum interest rates are 8.25% for Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans made to undergraduate students, 9.50% for Direct Unsubsidized Loans made to graduate and professional students, and 10.50% for Direct PLUS Loans made to parents of dependent undergraduate students or to graduate or professional students.”
This indicates that the amount of money that is needed to be paid back will accumulate overtime and therefore, even though there are such financial programs available out there that can initially help college students with tuition and fees, they would later be in years of debt from these very loans that got them into college.
If there is something the government can do, like moving some discretionary spending from the military to education, they should do it so that students can apply to the colleges they truly desire, have less student debts, and so that our economy and society improves.
Even if there are already financial aid programs that exist, the government should work to provide further assistance for students struggling with money so that there’ll be less weight on their shoulders and allow them some room to breathe as they adjust to adult life and the costs that come with it.
What readers can do right now to help speed up this process is by bringing more attention to this issue whether it means posting on social media platforms or taking part in campaigns for free college tuition.