Every year, millions of Americans will attend college. Many of those students need to borrow large amounts of money in order to attend. Some may be unable to attend college due to the costs. Those who choose to attend are faced with rising tuition costs and an increasing likelihood that they will need to take on debt to complete their degree. Current college students have lived through the financial crisis of 2008 and are wary of taking out loans to further their education. The cost of college is an issue affecting millions of Americans. As such, it has been a prominent issue in politics.
Many politicians, such as Hillary Clinton, have suggested having the government cover tuition costs for its citizens. Such plans suggest a free education at public community colleges. Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. ” A free tuition program would prevent many future problems commonly faced by adults in the United States of America. A government-funded tuition program would have tremendous economic and social benefits to the country. More education will give workers higher wages, reducing income inequality.
The federal and state governments spent a combined $474 billion dollars in 2015 on welfare programs (Chantrill). Many of the people in the bottom quartile of income have no education beyond high school (Rampell). Two economists from Harvard, Lawrence Katz and Claudia Goldin, concluded that the difference in the earnings of high-school and college graduates makes up 60 percent to 70 percent of the increase in wage inequality from 1980 to 2005 (Greenstein and Merisotis). Throughout history, college graduates have earned much more than high school graduates in America (Rampell).
This increase in income will decrease the reliance many Americans have on government welfare programs. Although providing citizens a free college education will cost money, it is an investment. In America, a college education is one of the best investments an individual could make. It has historically greatly outperformed traditional investments such as stocks, gold, long-term Treasury bonds, AAA corporate bonds and property (Rampell). An education provides many more job opportunities. In a tough job market, the expanded opportunities will help workers stay employed.
According to the United States Labor Department, 5. 8 percent of Americans ages 20 through 29 with a bachelor’s degree were unemployed in 2013. Their counterparts with only a high school diploma were unemployed at 14 percent. Additionally, these job opportunities are more lucrative. College graduates earn over 80 percent more than their high school graduate counterparts (Rampell). Also, since students would be in college rather than the workforce, jobs would be opened up for older citizens. If everyone age 18 through 24 were in college, unemployment in the United States would be reduced by 2 million people (Samuels).
The government would save money by not having to give out as much in unemployment handouts. A free college program would be smart, preventative care. History has shown that a college education can be a critical part of fulfilling a prosperous career and future with financial security. The government would allow many more Americans to succeed in the country by providing them with the key to success in the American economy: a college education. A government-funded tuition program would improve the American economy. America is a member in a global economy where the need for skilled workers is constantly increasing.
A better educated work force would allow the United States to be a stronger competitor in the global economy. Companies have frequently turned to foreign workers to meet the shortage of domestic skilled labor. Many companies want to hire American workers, but it is just simply not possible with the shortage of skilled labor. With a free tuition program, young Americans who previously would not have been able to obtain an education would be skilled workers. Therefore, companies would be able to hire more American workers instead. With American workers earning higher wages, the economy will benefit from their additional spending.
Currently, 7. 2 million Americans need federal loans to attend college (Bui). The average debt of a amoung students graduating with a four-year degree is over $25,000 (McPherson). For many, this is a lot of debt to pay back when they already have to pay for many expenses. Over a lifetime, the extra income from going to college averages over $1 million (McPherson). Over time, the average increase in income greatly dwarfs the average student debt. Since a free college program would allow every student to graduate college debt-free, he or she would be able to spend more of the money they earn post-graduation.
This extra spending would provide a stimulus to the economy. Also, instead of money flowing out of the country from foreign workers, American workers will put it back into the economy. This influx of money could in turn create even more jobs in the United States. A free college program would have a large, positive impact on the economy in many aspects. A better workforce makes for a stronger, more prosperous economy. Some opponents of a free college program argue that more people getting college degrees will decrease the value of the degree.
Although many refer to the basic economic concept of supply and demand, this is simply not the case with college education. In 1980, 21 percent of Americans of working age held a bachelor’s degree or higher; this figure rose to 37 percent by 2013. However, the wage difference between high school graduates and college graduate increased from 33 percent to 62 percent (Greenstein and Merisotis). These statistics exemplify the notion that a college education should be available to everyone. Additionally, implementing a free college plan does not mean that everyone will go to college.
Many people make the decision to pursue other options than college for reasons other than cost. The rising demand for college graduates and the fact that not everyone will go to college reinforce the view that a free college program will not devalue a degree. Critics of a free college education often cite low graduation rates as a reason why it would not be effective. A mere 46 percent of students at public universities will graduate (Bui). Not only are students left without a degree, they still have to pay for the time they were in college. This leaves some students stuck in debt and without a well-paying job to get out of debt.
Critics may say that low graduation rates prove that a free college education would be a poor investment by the government. They do not believe in paying for a student to attend college, only for the student to drop out of school. However, many students are forced to drop out because they do not have the money. “That is the No. 1 reason our students give when they drop out,” said Beatriz Gonzalez, who is the vice provost for the University of La Verne (Bui). Therefore, a free college program would have the additional benefit of increasing graduation rates.
A cost-free education would allow students to focus on their studies, rather than worrying about being able to afford their education. Currently, 85 percent of students who graduate high school on time proceed to attend college (McPherson). Opposers of free college argue that college is simply not for everyone. Many students end up dropping out because they feel that they do not belong there (Bui). Many who graduate with a bachelor’s degree are not prepared for their career with work experience (Selingo). There are well-paying job opportunities that do not require a bachelor’s degree.
Large manufacturing companies such as John Deere and Siemens run apprenticeship programs where students learn while working and eventually have a full salary job at the end of the program (Selingo). However, a free college program would make college an option for everyone, not a requirement. It would allow young Americans to pursue their ambitions by whichever avenue they may choose. A free higher education program would even fund technical and apprenticeship programs. Therefore, everyone would be allowed to benefit from a reform to higher education.
Although college is quite simply not for everyone, that does not mean that everyone should not have the opportunity. The objective of a free college program is not to make college required. Rather, it is to ensure that a college education will always be an option for whomever chooses to pursue it. Other critics argue that the cost of a free college program would simply cost too much. The cost of a free college program would be inevitably passed on to the taxpayer. Although college is not currently free, the government does give money to public universities to lessen the cost.
The government already gives over $150 billion to public universities through grants and subsidies (Sternberg). Despite this constant flow of money, tuition costs have continued to rise. In order to pay for everyone’s tuition, the government would have to spend even more money. Therefore, it is likely that the universities will charge more money. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York conducted a study in which they found that for every dollar in Pell Grants colleges received, they raised the cost of tuition by 55 cents. Additionally, for every dollar in federal subsidized student loans, they raised tuition by 65 cents (Sternberg).
However, some see a free college plan as an opportunity to lock in tuition prices. Since the federal government would be making the payments, they could also make rules which cap tuition. And although a free college program would be undeniably expensive, as previously stated it would be a smart investment in the human capital of the country. The cost of high education is a pressing issue facing many Americans. Many students across the country struggle to afford college tuition. It is quite common to take on debt in order to complete a degree.
History has shown that a college education can be essential to succeeding in America. If the government picked up the cost of college, it would allow students to focus on their studies and become better workers. A college education provides young Americans with many more job opportunities. They are much more likely to make more money, and also less likely to be unemployed than those with only a high school education. Not only will America benefit from having a larger supply of domestic workers, the country will benefit from those workers earning higher wages.
The extra income they earn will flow back into the economy. Many politicians have suggested a government program to pick up the cost of tuitions. These suggestions have been met with both widespread support and opposition. Providing young Americans with a free public college education would have numerous benefits to society. The country would see great economic and social improvements. Funding students’ college education is more than the right thing to do; it is an investment in a future of the country. A program for free college is essential to pave a brighter future for the United States of America.