The Case for Free University Tuition

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The Case for Free University Tuition

First and foremost, in looking at the current state of affairs in American society, it is apparent that there are multitudinous issues plaguing the population. Issues such as blatant racism and systematic discrimination imposing on the rights of minorities to an immense debt that has crippled the economy over the years. Per the latter, debt is an issue that continually exacerbates with every coming year, further affecting more and more Americans. As has been studied, one of the primary sources of the debt stems from the educational system within the United States; particularly, within the realm of the college and university systems. Per that notion, the following analysis will delve into the nature of university debt throughout the nation.

Overall, the premise of said analysis is that university should be free for American citizens as the current model is not economically sustainable along with the benefits from free university far outweighing any potential consequences.
To begin, in understanding how debt stems from the expenses accrued from postsecondary education, one must note the entirety of the situation beginning with expenses and debt rates. Within the current educational model, there are four different tracks that students may follow in pursuit of their degree and professional goals. The first track is attending a public, two-year university. The second, as it pertains to in-state students, is attending a public, four-year university. The third, as it pertains to out-of-state-students, is attending a public, four-year university. Then, the final track is attending a private, non-profit four-year university.

As the expenses would naturally differ between these four different tracks, students are exposed to various levels of debt depending on the education they decide upon. Per Statista, a company that tracks and compiles market and consumer data, the rates for university tuition within the United States as of this 2018/2019 school year were as follows. The public, two-year tuition on average cost $12,320. The public, four-year tuition for in-state students on average cost $21,370. The public, four-year tuition for an out-of-state student on average cost $37,430. Lastly, for the private, non-profit four-year university the average tuition cost was $48,510.

Next, before moving to the next component of the analysis the previously revealed data must be discussed. These figures are the averages of tuition during the current period for students wishing to further their education at any level. There will be students that are paying less than the given statistics and there will be students paying more than the given statistics; yet, that is the average cost of tuition as has been found.

At any rate, the cost of tuition at these different levels is absurd. The first reason is that this cost of tuition is solely the cost of attending the university. This does not include the required meal-plan that students pay for. This tuition is not inclusive of room and board nor the books necessary for classes which can also be very expensive throughout a student's tenure. Along with other associated costs that are concomitant with the price of living and studying at a university, these aforementioned costs are truly the lowest that a student might have to pay in regard to their post-secondary education.

The second reason that these tuition prices are absurd is that current society is built off of an economic model of interdependence. That meaning that each person learns and masters a certain specialty through which they can provide their service and make a living out of. At the same time, this person relies on other persons having been involved in other specialties to facilitate the tasks present in their daily life. For example, a doctor specializes in medicine and provides a specific health service, but the same doctor relies on the grocery store manager and workers to be able to buy the food and other goods relevant to his lifestyle. Drawing back from this example, specialization and interdependence is the foundation of current society. For a person to become a specialist, they must educate themselves to a further extent than other persons in that particular field.

What this translates into is that the cost of education is exponentially greater than the previously given data which considers only students obtaining their associate's or bachelor's degree. Students that go on to get their master's degree, student's that go on to study law or medicine, or simply those students that are in pursuit of their Ph.D., they will find themselves paying tens of thousands to even hundreds of thousands for tuition before they have even started their careers. Having such high debt through such means without having an established source of income is evidently unsustainable.

To continue, as it relates to the unsustainable model of college education, one might believe that scholarships, grants, and even certain work-study partnerships might heavily offset the college debt be accumulated by the vast majority of students. Though to a minor extent this is true, in an overall perspective these various means of financial aid have not truly lessened the debt burden for most students. According to Abigail Hess, news associate from CNBC's Make It, relevant data showed:

Most college graduates have one major thing in common: student debt. Today, 70 percent of college students graduate with a significant amount of loans. What's more, over 44 million Americans collectively hold nearly $1.5 trillion in student debt. That means that roughly one in four American adults are paying off student loans. When they graduate, the average student loan borrower has $37,172 in student loans, a $20,000 increase from 13 years ago.

These numbers are startling no matter how they are viewed. One way to view how grave the situation is to look at the overall debt of the United States. According to Statista, the public debt as of 2018 sits at about $15.8 trillion dollars. In relation to student debt, the entirety of student debt comprises .09, almost 10% of the entire public debt. For the overall national debt, this number sits around $21.5 trillion dollars. When compared, student debt comprises about 6% of the entire national debt. These numbers in specific are upsetting because it attests to the unsustainability of the postsecondary educational model. The entire nation's debt is 6% student debt and the entire public debt is 10% student debt. As tuition continues to increase and the U.S. dollar continues to inflate, this situation will only worsen further creating a reality where students will not be able to afford to educate themselves past high school and if they do, they will be left paying their debts well into their adulthood.

Moreover, referring back to the cost of the final three tracks of the university within the United States, there is one peculiarity that arises. Again, the average tuition costs for these three tracks, on average, is $21,370, $31,430, and $48,510 respectively. It is known that various factors determine one's income such as professional network, studied discipline, etc. In the U.S., the Census Bureau found that the average annual income across the working population in the United States is $34,035as of 2016 and as of 2017, the median income was $61,372 dollars. Per the average income of the working population, a person with an average college debt of $37,172 would need to utilize the entirety of their annual salary along with a couple months to pay back what is owed in student debts. If one is to use the median income, then one would have to allocate around 60% of their annual earnings to pay back the student debts. Both scenarios are not only unsustainable, but they are also both impossible as well.

The human life is complex and develops over the course of time with family, friendships, careers, etc. A person who is coming out of the university system might be going into their desired career, but they will also be paying the associated expenses of living. The cost of food, the cost of housing, the cost of transportation, and if they have families and children of their own, they will be paying these expenses too. Unless a person is or will become, a top earner within the 1% of the population, it is not sustainable to go to college. The average person cannot simply allocate 60% or all of their yearly earnings into paying back college debt; thus, they make payments over the course of their lifetime.
Furthermore, this is not inclusive of students that are going into even more debt as they decided to specialize in certain areas an obtain higher educational degrees. From each of these perspectives, it should be clear that the attendance of university within the United States is wholly unsustainable.

Additionally, according to Student Loan Hero, From the late 1980s to now, the cost of an undergraduate degree has risen by 213% at public schools and 129% at private schools, adjusting for inflation. This is another statistic speaks to the poor nature of education within the country. If, over the span of thirty-eight years the average tuition at public universities has risen 213% and at private universities has risen 129%, what will be the case for the next thirty-eight years?

Will the cost of university then double or even triple? What will be the average debt rate for students coming out of university at that point and time? How many tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt will students accrue in pursuance of knowledge, enlightenment, and obtaining a career to sustain themselves? These are but some of the necessary questions that need to be considered when speaking on the nature of this dilemma in the United States.

Moving away from the theme of unsustainability, there is the notion of benefits that would come if the United States were to implement a model of free education for citizens. One of the added benefits would come from the heightened influx of workers into the workforce. Not only would this increase the taxes paid back to the government bettering the economy for all, but

it would also simultaneously decrease the number of people subsisting off unemployment and extended government aid. In a report done by an analyst studying former-President Obama's proposition in regard to making community college, in part, free, it was written:
Students would able to take advantage of up to two tuition-free years at a community college would have a choice of pathways. Completing an industry-recognized certificate in a year or less could put thousands of Americans in the workforce in high demand jobs that pay well and oftentimes offer health benefits and retirement plans. (Cubberley, 22)

As it stands for community college, this would definitely benefit the economy and the persons seeking to obtain a higher education through newly presented opportunities. In one manner, the students going to community college would be able to receive their associate's degrees or other related certificates allowing them to work professionally and save up, more than what might be received in a grant or scholarship, for a four-year university and/or extended learning periods. As well as this, these same students, as mentioned in the excerpt, would be able to flow into the economy and increase the workforce by a substantial amount. If such a model was applied to four-year universities, the benefits would be immense.

In part, the thousands of dollars in debt that students would accrue in obtaining their bachelor's degree would be partly offset by the free years of education they received. In that sense, the students would be able to enter the professional workforce with low levels of debt that are more manageable and sustainable for the entire economy. Above all else, the benefit received from the implementation of this model at these university levels would mean that more specialists would be entering the economy. Specialists not only earn more according to their qualifications and area of expertise, but they would also further be able to facilitate the interdependence that the American economy thrives from.

To end, these are the reasons as to why the United States' university educational model is unsustainable. The overarching needs of students in today's society result from the issues related to debt, and as discussed, there are more benefits for the United States and entire population when university is free as compared to the current system. Hopefully, in the future, measures will be taken to counteract the student crisis and afford generations of the future with a better opportunity for prosperity.

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The Case for Free University Tuition. (2020, Mar 10). Retrieved June 20, 2024 , from

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