The Downfall Of Free College

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In America’s current society, college is viewed as a “must” by the majority of citizens. People are under the false impression that they must attend college to prosper in life, yet many continuously complain about the overwhelming cost of attending college. And due to the sensitivity of free college, it is a focal point of many political candidates. Since the topic of free college has been so highly politicized, there has been lots of action taken by young Americans who support this idea, including rallies, protests, and pressuring their politicians. Though, free college is a false promise that will only disappoint. A college education is a highly valued, prestigious accomplishment; a college education is intended to be earned, not given away. The price tag that comes with college may come across as an avoidable burden, but tuition forces a student to work harder to earn scholarships and make their payments worthwhile, ultimately producing high-skilled workers. Furthermore, there is no realistic way to fund free college, and free college would be extremely detrimental to private education institutions. In all, “free” isn’t free, and a free education will cause much more harm than good.

For starters, free isn’t really free. The primary question surrounding free college is “where will the money come from?” Well, the simple answer is: the working American taxpayers. In order to fund a free college system, tax bracket percentages would likely increase for middle class citizens and up, and this atrocity is seen in nearly every free college plan. For instance, New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy has outlined a plan to fund free college that would be a major cost to taxpayers. Though, this plan will only benefit families who bring in an income less than $65,000 a year, meaning only a limited few will reap the benefits. “That means a lot of middle-class families who struggle to send their own kids to college won’t be eligible for the ‘free’ tuition plan. Rest assured, though, those families will be paying for someone else’s kid’s college tuition, because nothing is free” (‘WHO IS GOING TO PAY FOR GOVERNOR MURPHY’S ‘FREE’ COLLEGE PLAN?’). Thus, this plan is inherently flawed, as it would only benefit low income families, and would ultimately cause more problems for middle class families. Another problem to inspect is the possibility of colleges purposely increasing tuition rates in order to gain more finances from a government supervised free college system. This would be a major problem, as it would result in a further increase of taxes. But wait, there’s more. Logically speaking, if college is free, more people will attend college, as they are under the false impression that it is “free”. And if more people attend college, more money will need to be obtained from the government, resulting in even higher taxes. In all, these flaws would lead to economic hardships. The middle class, which makes up the majority of Americans, would be greatly affected, as the high taxes would deplete their finances.

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Not only will free college result in major tax increases and economic hardships, but it will greatly diminish the value of a college education. Currently, most Americans don’t give education in America the respect it deserves. In other parts of the world, people willingly get up before dawn to walk many miles to attend school because they recognize the value of education. Though, in the United States, students are promised a free primary education. Unfortunately, they often take it for granted and commonly slack off (‘College education should not be free’). Journalist Branwyn Wilkinson weighed in on the issue. “I went to a public high school. I witnessed the lack of motivation in so many of my peers. Often, it is only once young people get to college, where they must spend their own money on their education, that they start taking their schooling seriously. A student who coasted by with Cs and Bs in high school will suddenly become a straight-A student in college. But if college were free, that student would keep coasting. The same thing would happen to college as has happened to high school: it would become devalued” (‘College education should not be free’). Unfortunately, if college is free, students will begin to slack off. As a result, the country will begin to witness the effects of an unskilled workforce, due to lack of effort in college. Now, do the American people really want unprepared aviation engineers or unmotivated doctors in their workforce?

Another realistic issue that many do not recognize is that free college will likely increase the number of student loans. In short, “free college” will probably only cover tuition, which is seen in most proposed free college plans formulated by politicians. However, much of the cost from attending college originates from food, books, and housing. So, students would technically only get a small portion of their college paid for (Palmer). A specific instance is seen in the case of Tare Brooklynn college senior, Florencia Salinas. This young American citizen has her tuition fully covered, yet she still expects to graduate with an appalling $50,000 in debt. Her covered tuition is only about $6,500 a year, but housing ($13,000 a year) and books (approximately $3,000 a year) quickly turn into big-ticket items (‘Free tuition doesn’t mean free college, students point out’). Essentially, this is a major problem because more students will attend college because they are under the false impression that it is “free”, but they will likely still have to take out loans to cover food, books, and housing. Furthermore, many students would drop out, leaving them with no newly acquired skills and hefty student loans.

Unsurprisingly, every democratic presidential candidate for the 2020 election has had a plan for free college. Though, every candidate has failed to recognize how their plan may be abused by the states. Currently, “The United States has no national system of higher education, and each of the states works somewhat differently. Overlooking this basic fact risks creating a policy that could make things worse instead of better. States vary widely in how well they fund their public colleges, and how much they charge for tuition. In-state prices for a year at a four-year public college range from about $6,000 in Florida and Wyoming to about $17,000 in Vermont and New Hampshire” (Chingos). Essentially, if states are still able to determine their public college’s tuition rates, funds will be distributed to states unproportionately. In addition, this could lead to states increasing their public college tuition rates just so they can gain more nonessential funding (Chingos). This is a problem that would have catastrophic consequences because it will also further increase taxes, and result in even more depletion of the federal budget.

Lastly, free public college would steer students away from attending private colleges, which have been around since the country’s origin. Even now, many students choose not to attend private colleges because of their hefty attendance prices, but making public college free would make matters worse. “Elite private colleges would no doubt continue to attract the very rich, just as some private K-12 schools do now. Still, a good public school makes even relatively affluent families think twice before saying no to free tuition” (‘Free college–for everyone?’). Unfortunately, this would cause attendance rates to drastically drop at private institutions, which could lead to their closure. Private colleges are currently the oldest institutions of education in the United States. They are a major piece in the history of the United States, and have played a key role in educating Americans citizens, ultimately turning the United States into the prosperous nation it currently is. Do Americans really want to put these sacred private institutions on the back burner?

Supporters of free college often compare student debt to credit card debt, which is absolutely ludicrous. As written by Ryan Dvorak, “Americans owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt–that’s over $500 billion more than all the credit card debt owed in the country. That is insanely unsustainable, and it is time to do something about it. Unlike credit card debt, college tuition debt can’t be chalked up to reckless consumer spending. College education is critical in the job market” (Dvorak). Simply put, Dvorak is under the impression that credit card debt is avoidable, but college debt isn’t. For, he thinks college is essential for a person to obtain a desirable job. Though, like credit card cards, college is a choice. Neither are essential for a person to live a successful life. Additionally, there are plenty of well paying jobs that do not require a college education and are in high demand. Let’s examine a few of these cheaper career options that still pay well. First, there is an electrician which has a median salary of $55,190 and an expected 10.4% job growth rate by 2028 (’25 Highest Paying Jobs Without a Degree’). “Training happens on the job, usually through an apprenticeship program, or at a technical school, with many states requiring licensure” (’25 Highest Paying Jobs Without a Degree’). So, while working to obtain an electrician’s license, a person will be earning a salary, and they will not have to worry about paying much to obtain it. Another great career that does not require a college degree is a patrol officer. Though, “you will need to go somewhere for training, such as a police academy” (’25 Highest Paying Jobs Without a Degree). However, this is a far cheaper option than going to college, and a person would still be earning the same salary as many people who have a college degree. In all, college and the debt that may tag along with it is a choice, and there are many great career options that do not require a degree.

Many in the opposition have their fair share of grandiose ideas they believe could fund free college, such as cutting the military budget. Such ideas are seen in an article published by The Christian Century when it advocates tuition funding with “350 billion a year in military spending cuts. Reversing the harmful and regressive 2017 tax cuts would go a long way as well. Like all public spending, it’s a question of priorities. In an era when mostly only the college-educated have decent financial prospects, it’s time to prioritize universal free tuition” (“Free college–for everyone”). Essentially, this article incredulously states that free college must be prioritized over the military and the finances of the American people. To start, “millennials need to realize what kind of world we live in and why. It is not uncommon for the U.S. to deploy its navy to the shores of hostile countries to protect its allies from possible aggression. Free college is great — but it is because of the magnitude of our military that the U.S. is not at war with another major power, drafting young people who could otherwise be going to college. It is also because of the benefits American military provides that the U.S. has such a successful economy, allowing Americans to flirt with the idea of so-called ‘free college’ (‘Students should consider the importance of the US military before comparing its budget to that of education.’).

Free college education is an atrocious idea that would never work to anyones’ desire. As the debate for “free college” progresses, Americans must stand their ground and realize why this is such a catastrophic idea. Not only would America’s economy decline, but the country would lose historic and sacred private universities, gain a careless, unskilled workforce, and hard working Americans would be stuck paying outrageous taxes. Is this really what Americans want their country to be? 


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