Since Bernie Sanders launched his campaign to be the next president of the United States, he has made free college at the core of his message. Though he failed to clinch the nomination, the idea remains as Hillary Clinton’s campaign has agreed to make free tuition in college a part of the 2016 Democratic Party platform.
On the surface, it seems like there is no counter-argument on free college. There are hundreds upon thousands of students, not just in the US, but around the world, suffering because they can’t get into college. They don’t climb the economic ladder because no good paying jobs would accept someone without a degree. Currently, there are different ways in which the government helps those aspiring to get a college degree to reach their goals. This includes tuition fee exemption, living grant and student loans. The first one is good enough, but still won’t cover the entire cost. Those who get a living grant can go to college with some assistance on their daily expenses. The most popular though are student loans. It is the easiest way for students to get to college.
The reason why free college has become so popular is because those who have decided to get a degree ended up being buried in debt because the student loan interest rates are too high. Instead of giving out student loans to help students in need, they became a money-making machine. This is why free college has become an extremely popular platform especially for the Sanders’ supporters.
The sad reality
One of the reasons why there is no need for free tuition in college is because those who are going to college are better off in life anyway. According to statistics, of those who belong to the bottom 20% in terms of economic class, only 2% enter college at age 19 or 20. On the other hand, of those who belong to the upper 20%, at least 90% can go to college at an appropriate age. In short, the idea of providing free tuition fee for all in college, in reality, only helps the reach. This was also adopted as an argument by the Clinton campaign during the primaries, but they have turned their platform around to accommodate the overwhelming clamor of the Sander’s supporters.
A potential disaster
Germany has recently implemented free tuition in college. So far, it has gone well. It did not necessarily smash the country’s coffers as previously predicted. It is yet to be seen though if this would be a huge success in the long run. Providing free tuition for all students cost billions of dollars. There will come a point when the government would no longer be able to pay for this policy, and would require more tax increases.
Pushing for the policy
There is one thing that could be done though to make this policy more appealing. Currently, those who are in favor of free college argue that free college is a right that must be available for all students. Though reasonable, it does not sound attractive enough to bring more people into the fold. Instead, it should be advertised as more of an investment. Providing free education means that you can expect something in return in the long run. Once these students graduate from college, they will get good paying jobs and will once again boost the middle class and the working class. It will ultimately make economic activity more active and lead to the development of the country.
Yes, the numbers don’t necessarily add up in papers, but we will see if in reality, this plan would work especially for a huge country like the US.
Featured and 1st image by Binod.gr (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
2nd image by Lee Kindness [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons