Education is the platform in which America was built on: an unarguable fraction of individuals have sacrificed everything in order to come to our country and offer their kids an education that gives them a chance in this world of chaos. Elementary, middle and high school are publicly available to all citizens, and these opportunities have proven to be nothing short of successful. College is the next step on the road to improving our country as a whole; a public postsecondary education should be available at no cost to all American citizens.
The astronomical cost of college shackles students to their loan payments for up to their entire life; it is possibly the most significant argument supporting free postsecondary education. In our nation’s past, “public colleges and universities have been considerably more affordable than they are today, with lower tuition, and financial aid that covered a much larger portion of the costs”. Today, however, the price tag on an education is ceaselessly increasing, and students are finding it more and more difficult to pay off student debts or even attend college at all. In 2016, Americans totaled $1.3 trillion solely in student loans, “carrying more student debt than credit card debt or auto-loan debt”. Contributing to the burden of student debt, grants and scholarships are decreasing in value, while at the same time, students are becoming progressively insolvent. In 1973, a federal Pell Grant paid “over 75% of the cost” of attending a public college or university; today, it only pays for a meager 30 percent of the average cost, providing notably lower amounts of money to students. According to Keith Ellison, a writer for The American Prospect, “the cost of attending a four-year college has increased by 1122 percent since 1978”. In less than 50 years, the price of postsecondary education has skyrocketed to a preposterous price, and yet, the problem of unemployment is still pondered. Even if one is given the opportunity for higher education, their career options may be limited due to lack of financial stability; premier jobs require higher levels of college, which generally impede a higher cost. These disadvantages ultimately lead to individuals quitting their jobs and/or possibly becoming unemployed. Our younger generations should not be beginning their adulthood drowning in more student debt than any other source.
On the other hand, however, the question of who arises — who will pay for their tuition if students no longer are required to? The most logical and common answer is the people; a tax increase would cover the cost, but last year, 48 percent of Americans already believed their taxes were too high, according to CNBC. Using statistics from recent federal data, it was concluded that “if you live to age 75, and pay annual taxes starting at age 18,” taxes towards free tuition total $77,500 per person. Proponents of this claim are arguable towards a free college education, but the people should not have to bear the burden of this entire cost. Our country spends “hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies to the oil and gas industry and billions of dollars more to Wall Street” as well as other ridiculous industries. According to data collected in 2015, the government supported 68 percent of the price for Super Bowl-related costs. Surely, a few exceptions, such as sports, can be made in order to educate our future generation; college education should be viewed as “one of our community’s most important responsibilities, and it’s a right that all of us should be able to enjoy”.
President Barack Obama once vocalized a statement that our nation should carefully consider when contemplating free college: “Every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our society”. All Americans, despite their circumstances, should be given the opportunity of attending post-secondary education. Supporting this idea, writer for Harvard, Graduate School of Education, Casey Bayer suggests that “a college degree is a ticket to the middle class”. In most instances, this proposition proves true; by exclusively earning a high school diploma, individuals “earn an average of almost $30,000 per year”. On the other hand, “bachelor’s graduates earn an average of just over $50,000 a year and those with a higher level degree (master’s, doctorate or professional) average nearly $70,000 per year”. A college degree is just short of guaranteeing a dependable annual salary, but currently, those who experience troubles with financial stability do not have that opportunity. As Tressie McMillan Cottom, writer for Dissent, puts it, “College is the domain for the relatively privileged”, and it is time to make it available to all Americans, either wealthy or struggling monetarily; a college degree “is a right for everyone and not merely a privilege for the few.
A multitude of other countries have successfully implemented a free college system; why wouldn’t the U.S. be equally as effective? Germany is just one of the countries that enjoys a higher public education at no cost. German universities have reported a 30 percent rise in the student population from 2012 to 2016, and the numbers are likely to have increased since then. More student enrollment equals a larger workforce consisting of a variety of skills; many intelligent people never get the opportunity to utilize their talents, for they cannot attend college. Creating a free college system in America would allow anyone, despite their circumstances, to get an education and add their brain power to our ever growing economy. Finland is yet another country that offers tuition-free education. Despite the previous stresses of quality lacking education, Finland is recognized worldwide for its academic excellence. The values of American education should be the equal to those present in Finland: “education is regarded as a fundamental right and the Finnish education policy emphasizes equal opportunities for all”. Currently, the American system lacks these equal opportunities, and implementing free college education is a significant step in the right direction. Other countries regarded successful in free postsecondary education include Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Slovenia, France, Greece, the Czech Republic, and Brazil.
A tuition-free system among the nations above are considered quite successful, but they notably come with their own flaws. An increase in student enrollments is unpreventable and rather the objective of free postsecondary education, but was considered to have rendered hardships on campuses; “there is a danger that university education and research may suffer”, resources and funds run thin, and staff is let go”. Currently, in the United Kingdom, it is a controversial argument that free college is “causing higher education to lag behind other countries”. Nevertheless, the United States in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and, according to CNBC, also the most wasteful when it comes to money. A significant increase in tax revenues, however, would not even be required; “The United States spends about 1.36% of our GDP on post-secondary education”. There is not a large increase between that of the U.S. and that of countries with free college — “Finland spends 2.08%, Norway spends 1.96% and Germany spends 1.35%”. Surely, our government can afford to provide the meager difference in order to support the backbone of our country: education.
In order to support the powerful country our ancestors have created, a successful economy is mandatory, and cannot be achieved without the contribution of all citizens, which ultimately leads to a simple solution: free college. Bernie Sanders is one of the most prominent advocates of tuition-free education and maintains the previous idea in his article “Make College Free For All” published in The Washington Post; Through his writing, he emphasizes that “If our economy is to be strong, we need the best-educated workforce in the world. We won’t achieve that if hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college”. By allowing all citizens access to higher education, people who may have the opportunity to contribute to possible economic progress, medical breakthroughs, or advances in other fields are not surpassed. When individuals cannot afford college, everyone suffers in response; “they are far less likely to be employed, paying taxes, sending their kids to school and contributing to our communities in other ways”. Those who do not obtain a higher education are also scientifically proven to “commit fewer crimes, draw less on social welfare programs and generate more taxes”. For instance, “a 5% increase in the college graduation rate produces an 18.7% reduction in the homicide rate”. Educating our country is undeniably the answer to a plethora of our problems, and a free college system is a manifest start to stimulating our overall economy.
Despite the many barriers standing in the way of a free public college system, it is mandatory that those obstacles are overcome; the rewards will be more abundant than the downfalls: relieving student debt, eradicating inequality, acknowledging all intelligence despite circumstances and countless other benefits. We will never know if free college proves successful if it is never attempted in our country.
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