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My View On Whether College Tuition Should Be Free

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I’m fairly certain the majority of people who attend college and attended college in the past agree that they do not like the hefty student loan debt college accrues. Unless you have family paying your way, or some source that is providing you with free tuition, you can be stuck with a substantial amount to pay back. I myself am an individual taking out student loans for my college education. While I am excited to better my life and enjoy the career my college path has set me on, I am already dreading the thought of going into debt. I can empathize with the thought of college being “tuition-free”. It really does sound nice. I would love knowing I graduated with no debt. A clean slate to start my post grad life off with. It would be an amazing weight lifted off my shoulders. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, all it is a nice thought. Nothing in this life is ever truly free. I cannot stand behind the notion of college being tuition free for that reason (and many more). Even if it was labeled as “tuition-free” you’d be paying for it one way or another. Paying your way for your degree is just a part of life. I don’t like it as much as the next person, but it’s a necessary evil.

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The thought of free tuition has become a large and popular movement in the United States. So much so that New York is the first state to actually set that agenda in motion. In 2017, tuition was wiped out for all students that were in a certain income bracket. The program is called the Excelsior Scholarship. It doesn’t make college free completely, but it does cut out the large majority of student’s worries about debt in New York. While we are just starting this new process in the United States, the United Kingdom has stopped their free tuition. The reason being was because of a decline in the quality of their education they provided to students. What would this say about the free-tuition going on in America? Why would free tuition effect the quality of academics being taught? It was a notion I didn’t even think of until reading Murphy’s argument against free tuition. England is a great example of what a free tuition can do to the quality of what is put out in the college schooling system. If you supply something for free, more people are going to desire it. If more people desire it, you may cause an overflow of demand thus making it hard to keep up with the quality of what you are putting out. Having a room of 300 students vs having a room of 30 students makes it a difficult task to provide each individual with an excellent experience and education.

Regarding England’s previously free tuition, the article goes on to say “Despite these controls, per-student resources continued to fall throughout the 1990s. By 1998, funding had fallen to about half the level of per-student investment that the system had provided in the 1970s”. Overflow of classrooms is one of the key reasons why tuition free college is not a very keen idea. One thing that struck me while thinking about this specific topic was the thought of someone truly desiring to go to school. A college student being eager to learn, but not getting the education they desired. This would be due to an extremely large classroom and not enough to supply them with the caliber of education they deserve. Paying for an education does make a difference because it demands quality over quantity.

Another instance to think of is how much low cost or no cost education the United States is already providing. The United States provides low income students with a low cost, if not free education at community colleges. Unfortunately, the success rate is still not the greatest despite a low to no cost tuition. Out of all students attending a community college, only 40% of them will complete a degree within 6 years. Those numbers seem to show to me that even with a college experience that has a fee associated with it, a good majority of students don’t take the education they are provided seriously. If a tuition free system was set in place, how much more would that percentage go down? Being provided an item or service for free is usually not as cherished as something that you have to pay for. If you are paying for something you think to yourself, I paid good money for this so I really have to take care of it. The same analogy I think can be applied to paying for college.

Something we see in public elementary schools that is quite common is a lack of cultivating individuality. Since public elementary schools are funded by the state, their options for making unique programs are limited to what the government is willing to fund. Even if there are programs that exist that might spark a new and refreshing way of learning or discovering, it could be cut if the government sees fit. If colleges adopted that same model, I could see there being extreme consequences. College is supposed to be a place where you can express yourself creatively. You can find so many groups of people interested in the same things you are. It’s also a place to challenge your thoughts and beliefs. It should make you uncomfortable. It’s not meant to fit in a specific mold. “A free public option would crowd out innovation and limit competition”. You come to college to escape the K-12 expereince. Not to re-enact it.

10 October 2020

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