The concept of making college education free has gained significant traction in recent years, particularly in politically progressive circles. Advocates of free college argue that everyone should have access to higher education, regardless of their financial background. As appealing as this idea might seem, however, it is important to consider the potential drawbacks of implementing such a system. This article will explore why free college should not be a thing and will examine the economic, social, and cultural implications of providing free college education.
II. Exploring the Cost of “Free” College
One of the most significant arguments against free college is the cost that it would entail. In order to make college free for everyone, either taxes would have to be increased or cuts would have to be made somewhere else in the budget. Higher taxes could hurt low-income families who cannot afford them. Reduced quality of education is another concern as education may not be prioritized with less funding. Ultimately, free college is not truly free, and the cost will have to be absorbed somewhere. Moreover, such a system could have long-term economic effects. We will examine these potential effects further below.
III. The Economic Value of Student Investment
As mentioned above, the cost of college is one of the primary arguments against free college. However, the cost of higher education is a valuable investment in one’s future. College graduates typically earn significantly more throughout their lifetime as compared to non-graduates. For many young people, taking out student loans is a reasonable investment in their future. It allows them to gain the necessary skills to enter higher-paying jobs and positions in their respective fields, ultimately providing an overall better quality of life. Thus, the expense is justifiable.
IV. Highlighting the Downsides of Universal Access
One of the most common arguments in favor of free college is that it provides equal access to higher education to all students, regardless of their financial background. However, universal access has downsides such as reduced standards of admission, which could translate into less qualified applicants being admitted for the sake of filling seats or program quotas. Over time, a flood of similarly qualified candidates into the job market would reduce pay, drastically increase competition, and create a higher likelihood of skilled trades disappearing in favor of unskilled labor. Furthermore, making college mandatory or free for everyone could mean that the quality of education is diminished as some individuals might see college as a waiting game instead of seeing the full potential of the education offered.
V. Identifying Alternatives to a Free College Model
The good news is that there are alternatives to making college education freely available to everyone, which won’t require the expense of a full free education model. One way to make college more affordable to students is to improve student loan refinancing options and lower the default rates. Additionally, funding community colleges and vocational schools can provide people with necessary technical skills to prepare them for the workforce immediately. These options require a fraction of the money needed to provide free access to higher education, and they still provide increased access to technical and higher education.
VI. The Social and Cultural Benefits of Student Debt
Despite the negativity surrounding student loan debt, it’s argued that certain aspects of it have positive social and cultural effects such as the values of hard work, financial responsibility and a sense of investment. Further, the loan forgiveness programs create opportunities to give back to your community and to those who need help. By investing in our education, we not only invest in our future, but in that of our communities.
As we’ve explored in the essay, while in theory free college sounds like an excellent idea, however, reasonable evidence is present to suggest that the reality is more complicated. It has drawbacks such as the cost of providing for universal access, reducing the quality of education, and reduced standards in institutional accountability. The expenses of higher education do present a challenge to many students and families. However, it is important to make sure that solutions to these issues are practical solutions that provide meaningful opportunities for students that don’t involve easy fixes or putting additional financial burdens onto already struggling families.
Therefore, it is our recommendation that we focus on practical solutions that provide meaningful opportunities for students, such as better student loan refinancing options and increased funding for community colleges and vocational schools.