Will Making College Free Improve America?
It is common knowledge that college education is indeed one of the basic requirements for candidates to get assimilated into the job market especially for well-paying white collar jobs. Most people would argue that college graduates have higher employment rates, more work benefits, and higher salaries than high school graduates. They also contend that college graduates live longer, have better interpersonal skills, have healthier children, and have proven that they can achieve significant milestones ("College Education - Procon.Org"). Perhaps these are the reasons why today’s politicians like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have brought the issue of free public college into the national spotlight. Both politicians have shed light on their free college proposals and how they can be implemented. The idea is not that insane. In fact, several countries in Europe such as Germany, Sweden, Finland and France have already made free public universities a norm. Given the student debt has skyrocketed to an all-time high, innumerable middle-class families could use the relief (Schrager). All in all, free College education will help citizens and improve America. This paper will discuss how free college schooling would benefit Americans and improve the United States in all ways, be it economically, socially, legally and even politically. It will also focus on some of the drawbacks that threaten this proposal.
Offering free college education in the United States has a positive impact and improves the nation at large. It can influence more people into starting or continuing their individual higher or tertiary education journey. In the contemporary world, high school education is not enough, and one may face serious challenges and limitations in life if they lack college credentials especially in matters regarding jobs and income. Through free college education, students continuing their education would be able to attain more skills and knowledge in various career fields. This would improve America’s poverty and unemployment rates since more job opportunities would be granted to these graduates. With more people in the workforce, there will be a significant decrease in crime since most of them can support themselves and their families. Moreover, the free college proposal will steer the nation in the right direction and put it on par with other countries.
According to Sanders, education is essential for both personal and national well-being. The free college education will result in a well-educated workforce that can effectively contribute and compete in this highly competitive global economy. It is this learned people that will make the economy stronger and therefore more people especially the bright young people should be able to afford college and not be troubled with huge debts instead. Through free post-secondary education, all the young people in the country who wish to attend college can get the education they desire regardless of their background or family income. Sanders also points out that public colleges and universities in countries like Denmark, Sweden, Mexico, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Ireland remain tuition free because they understand the kind of investment they are making. These governments know that the investment is not only on the individuals acquiring knowledge and skills but also on the society as a whole since these students will later serve the community as architects, teachers, entrepreneurs, scientists and more. He further states that every year, 4,600 students leave the United States to study in Germany free public universities. For a small token of $200 per year, an American can earn an authentic degree in engineering or math from one of the premier public universities in Europe. Revoking tuition fee from public universities and colleges would be a development that will steer a new era of American prosperity. When all young citizens with talent and ambition can reach their full potential regardless of their circumstances at birth, then United States will have a stronger democracy and economy (Sanders).
The economics behind free college particularly the facts on fees and funding options clearly show how free colleges would be a great benefit. In as much as the United States remains the world’s most popular destination for international students, it’s among the most expensive choices. The headline costs of studying in America may be daunting as it always involves a string of five-digit numbers. An HSBC report compiled in 2014 on the cost of studying abroad indicated that America’s total cost ranked third most expensive worldwide only behind Australia and Singapore. The average annual cost of college in the United States was estimated to be about $36,564 per year. This cost (which is a sum of tuition fees and living expenses) if multiplied by four (for most undergraduate courses) or two (for most master’s degree programs is way too exorbitant. HSBC estimates include significant variations in either direction.
The very top American universities (many of which are private non-profits) fees and living costs may add up to approximately US$ 60,000 annually. At the same time, it’s possible to study in the United States at a much lower outlay. An affordable option in matters regarding tuition fees at US Universities is within the public sector. These Universities are usually run as state university systems. These public universities have two separate tuition fee rates: one for state residents and another for everyone else. The latter category is more expensive, and it applies equally to applicants from other US states and those from other countries (Bridgestock).
Published tuition fees for 2014/15 in state colleges are an average of US$ 9,139 for state residents and US$ 22,958 for everyone else according to student support organization College Board. These figures compare to an average of $31,231 in private non-profit colleges. The cheapest options among them all, however, are public sector two-year colleges that are also known as technical, city or community colleges where the average fees for 2014/15 were just $3,347. The average annual fees (room and board, tuition and other costs) at US universities in 2014/15 were recorded as follows;
• $11, 052 for public two-year colleges
• $18,94 for public four-year colleges (in-state fees)
• $32,762 for public four-year colleges (out of state fees)
• $42,419 for private nonprofit four-year colleges
Each one of those expenses varies depending on the type of university a person decided they want to attend.
When transport, as well as other living expenses, are factored in, College Board estimates the following yearly budgets for undergraduate studies in 2014/15:
• $37,229 (out-of-state students at a four-year public college)
• $46,272 (private non-profit four-year college)
• $23,410 (in-state students at a four-year public college)
• $16,325 (community college)
These figures would be revoked with free college, and every student would live a happier and more comfortable life.
Bernie Sanders free college proposal would help students from both high and low-income families by doing away with tuition and fees at public colleges and universities. The numbers of Sanders’s proposal in depth students of low-income families make 14% of public college students and would receive 16 % of free tuition. Students from high-income families that make up 11 percent of students at public colleges would receive 18 percent of the benefits if tuition fees were eliminated (chingos).
However, while the deal sounds enticing, these national Democratic contenders were not so sure about how they would finance the free college initiative since it’s not as easy as it sounds. Instituting a plan like this will come with its share of sacrifice and benefits. Hillary Clinton’s free college proposal would cost the United States an estimated 500 billion dollars over the next ten years if she were to implement her proposal after being elected. This figure is excluding the estimated 20 trillion in national debt the country is bombarded with. Countries such as Finland, Sweden, France, Germany, Slovenia, and Norway all offer free college but doesn’t have the population that America hence it’ll be difficult to accommodate the numbers on such a large scale. Moreover, most of these European countries offering free college pass this huge cost to the taxpayers even though they enroll fewer numbers than the United States. Europe also traditionally has higher taxes than the United States which creates room for these countries to provide additional social services. According to a 2015 report compiled by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), European countries financing free college ranked among countries with highest tax wage percentage even though the tax wage isn’t driven solely by free college tuition costs. Nevertheless, these countries have a much higher income tax rate than the United States. America has a much lower tax wedge percentage (31.5) which can attest to why the U.S. cannot offer free college (Jackson).
There are also other arguments that claim that Clinton’s proposal to make public tertiary education more accessible to middle and lower-income students could have the opposite effect to what is expected. This is because it would not be fixing the problem of top public institutions not admitting more disadvantaged backgrounds. The challenge with accepting disadvantaged students is taking on the low grades that would come along with it. This would in turn cause schools to be hesitant since they do not want to fall behind in national college rankings. Colleges are typically competitive, and admitting students with lower test scores means schools would have to invest some extra support to these students. Studies show that students with lower test scores can succeed at elite universities provided they get the right support. Under Clinton’s free college proposal, tuition would be scrapped for families making up to $125,000 a year. This could cause students of middle to upper middle class to prefer public college to private institutions (Brownstien).
Free college is more likely to benefit students of higher income more than disadvantaged students because of the mere fact that more higher income students tend to attend college than disadvantage students. For this reason, there should be a difference in the meaning of free college whether it means complete elimination of tuition or eliminating tuition and also covering room and board. This is because room and board aren't solely college expenses as people who don’t attend school have to deal with the cost of room and living by themselves. Therefore, free college should not be available for all but under a pro-welfare banner. This way, the free college will be left exclusively to people or students from disproportionate backgrounds. Without proper understanding and presenting student benefits as welfare handouts, the idea of free college lacks real egalitarian purpose. Offering extra money to a class of the affluent or disproportionately well-off people while securing zero reciprocal advantages to the working class and the needy who rarely attend college while valuing college students as a virtuous people at individual levels deserving such benefits would be at best, totally pointless and at worst destructive (Brueing)
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