The United States is among the nations with the best education systems. College education is one of the most embraced sectors by the population. This is attributed to the increase in the percentage of individuals seeking higher education and those who have attained associate degrees in recent years (United States Census Bureau). While this is the case, there is a significant population that still struggles to meet college tuition and pursue their dreams due to unfavourable social, economic and political reasons. This mostly affects people of colour and other vulnerable groups. Whether college education should be made free for all Americans evokes mixed reactions. However, it should be made like the K-12 system since its benefits outweigh the costs.
Initially, free college education could reduce the inequality gap in the country. According to a survey by NORC, 75% of Americans associate not attending college with affordability (NORC). Since, higher education is prohibitively expensive, many low-income students encounter hurdles in pursuing college degrees. Therefore, free education could level the playing ground for all students. For instance, in nations like Finland and Norway, where higher education is largely subsidized, income disparities in educational attainment are minimal.
Secondly, it could reduce the students’ debt burden. The majority of the learners pursuing higher education rely on loans which end up graduating with accumulated amounts. Due to the fear of incurring higher amounts, students from low-income families are discouraged. By eliminating tuition costs, students would graduate without the burden of substantial debt, allowing them to invest in other areas of their lives, for instance, buying a home or starting a family (Velez et al., 206). This would motivate students from low-income families to seek college education, reducing the existing inequality gap. Thirdly, free college education could stimulate economic growth. The increase in post-secondary education allows the population to gain vital skills and knowledge. A strong workforce increases efficiency and effectiveness in production which in turn can increase the economic growth of the United States. Moreover, the move could be the basis for reduced social problems. A free college education would revamp the human capital as a significant population would be motivated to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge. This would not only increase productivity but also involvement in crime and other adverse social events.
On the contrary, critics argue that free college tuition could reduce the education quality. Public institutions require various resources to ensure that students acquire the necessary education. With limited funding, such institutions may struggle to provide quality education. For instance, when England applied the same approach the country experienced a significant decline in education quality (Murphy et al., 7). Besides, while free education could improve access, it might not fully mitigate the broader systemic issues that contribute to inequality. In the United States, this problem happens to be deeply ingrained in systemic issues that extend beyond access to education. For instance, inequalities related to race, housing, healthcare, and employment opportunities are instrumental in perpetuating social and economic disparities. Therefore, addressing them requires comprehensive reforms. Moreover, free college education is not necessarily a stimulator of economic growth. While education increases creativity and productivity, it cannot solely drive the economy. Some people see it as an enemy of progress since it necessitates an increase in taxes.
In conclusion, college tuition should be free for all Americans K-12 system since the benefits accrued are more than the costs. Free college education could reduce inequality and students’ debt burden, stimulate economic growth and minimize social problems. Since education shapes human capital, it should be supported at all costs.
Murphy, Richard, Judith Scott-Clayton, and Gillian Wyness. “Lessons from the end of free college in England.” Evidence Speaks Reports 2.13 (2017): 1-10.
NORC. https://www.norc.org/research/library/survey–americans-see-cost-as-the-biggest-barrier-to-higher-educ.html. Accessed 29 August 2023.
United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2022/educational-attainment.html. Accessed 29 August 2023.
Velez, Erin, Melissa Cominole, and Alexander Bentz. “Debt burden after college: The effect of student loan debt on graduates’ employment, additional schooling, family formation, and home ownership.” Education Economics 27.2 (2019): 186-206.