University Education Should be Free
PRO (3 arguments)
“University education” refers to public community colleges or public 4-year colleges.
“Free” means free tuition.
Many other countries in the world are poorer than the US but provide free college to their citizens. Brazil, Germany, Finland, France, Norway, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Argentina and Sweden all provide tuition free or nominal tuition for college. John Burbank, executive director of the progressive policy think tank The Economic Opportunity Institute, says, “We’re currently spending around $185 billion on higher education annually—which includes spending on for-profit schools, which have very low graduation rates and high debt rates, as well as on merit aid for wealthy students. Given current enrollment, I estimate that it would cost about $155 billion to fund public colleges and four-year institutions completely. My argument is instead of funding the individuals, we should just fund the institutions directly.” Other experts have offered other ways to raise the money to pay for free college, including 1) closing corporate tax loopholes that allow companies to legally avoid paying their full share of taxes, 2) Increasing the tax rates for America's wealthiest millionaires and billionaires, 3) Implementing new taxes on speculative Wall Street transactions, 4) Decreasing the military budget, and 5) Cracking down on wasteful government spending.
Clearly, because there are many ways for the US government to pay for free college, we should pursue this very beneficial opportunity.
Times Magazine and Economic Opportunity Institute
There are millions of college graduates who are in extreme debt due to student loans. This is very harmful to the United States economy because most of these students leave college poorer than when they started, and aren't able to provide for themselves after college. As of right now, Americans owe 1.3 trillion dollars in student debt, spread out among 44 million borrowers, and of these borrowers, 73% of students never pay back their loans. Not only that but, the Class of 2016 alone has an average of $37,172 in student loan debt, skyrocketing 6% from last year. This enormous debt load prevents college graduates from participating in our economy because they are unable to buy necessities like a home. In a survey by the National Association of Realtors, 23% of first-time buyers said it was hard for them to save for a down payment, and within that group, 57% said student debt was preventing them from saving. Research has also found that the burden of student debt hurts innovation and entrepreneurship, a core component of the US economy. Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia studied the relationship between student debt and small business formation and found a significant link: More student debt led to fewer small businesses being formed.
Free college education benefits the entire society because eliminating student debt will allow graduates to fully participate in our economy. The inability to form a business as a result of student debt means that even the talents of our most qualified, smart, and innovative students are being wasted because of economic barriers.
CNBC, the National Association of Realtors, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
By making university free, more people can go to college, especially those who can’t afford the current tuitions of colleges, which means there will be equality of opportunity in the US.
College graduates make more money. According to a 2011 study, people with a bachelor’s degree make 84% more money than high school graduates. A study from the University of Maine states that “Citizens with postsecondary credentials not only contribute to the economic prosperity of communities; they also live happier, healthier lives.” According to the US Dept. of Education, only 40% of US students go to college.
If college is not free, then we will continue to have 60% of our population not fully educated, and they will be unable to make positive impacts to society, the economy, or the environment because of their limited job opportunities. The US claims to be a democracy that fights for the rights of all people; if we want to continue upholding this model of outstanding citizenship and government, we must make sure all individuals have equal access to education.
LA Times, University of Maine, US Dept of Education
CON (3 arguments)
A university is comprised of an undergraduate division and a graduate division which comprises and graduate school and professional schools. Thus, the PRO must defend why not only 4-year colleges but also graduate and professional schools should be free.
By making university “free,” you would just add extra taxes and federal grants, which would negatively impact the economy.
Our national debt stands at $18 trillion and counting. That’s $56,500 for every single person living in this country. Congress can’t even decide cuts to Social Security and Medicare, which are 32% underfunded; our infrastructure is crumbling and fixing it will cost $3.3 trillion between 2016 and 2025; and our public high school budgets have been in a steep decline for years, causing schools to cut hours and buildings to fall into disrepair. Adding another huge government social program like free university tuition (graduate schools included) will be impossible to fund and only deepen our economic troubles. According to National Public Radio, 20 of 22 economists from all over the political spectrum believe that free university is a bad idea for our economy. Even necessities, such as food and shelter, are not free for all people because that is impractical. It makes no sense for university, especially at the higher graduate level, to be free because it is not a basic life necessity.
NPR, Financial Times
Students still have to pay for the admissions process, food, housing, books, equipment, and more, so free tuition would not be enough to allow high-achieving, motivated, and scholarly students from the worst economic conditions to attend universities. In general, high income kids would benefit more. The best example of this is Ireland, where tuition costs have been decreased significantly. Poorer communities still view higher education as something for the rich even though it is free. These groups continue to enter the workforce in similar numbers as they had before the ending of fees, and they still tend to prefer trade schools to universities if they do seek qualifications beyond the secondary level. Thus, overall, it is clear from this empirical evidence that making university free has no effect on the percentage of lower class citizens getting higher education; it only makes it even easier for the rich to benefit.
Without university fees, universities become dependent on the state for funding. This leads to larger class sizes and less spending per student. Yet with fees, the quality of universities increases for three reasons. First, funding improves, as a university may charge in accordance with need. Second, quality of teaching is improved. Because a university wants people to attend and to pay fees, the programs and degrees they offer have to be good signals of quality, requiring the school to hire the best lecturers. Third, the average quality of students attending university will improve. This is because students feel they need to get the most from their investment in education, so there will be an incentive to work hard. An example of higher quality education from tuition is that of the United States, which has eighteen of the top fifty ranked universities in the world. Quality is clearly improved when university is not free.
“The paradox of free university is that the institutions will have to limit the number of spots or reduce quality,” said Ben Wildavsky from the Rockefeller Institute of Government. Brian Wasbury, former chief economist for the Joint Economic Committee of the Congress stated, “If you think a university education is expensive, just wait until it’s free because taxpayers would have to foot the bill and the costs would go through the roof while the quality of education fell.”
If many more people earn college degrees or beyond, then the value of the degrees decrease, increasing the number of workers who are unemployed despite getting higher education.
NBC, Joint Economic Committee of Congress