The education sector faces various challenges. The idea of free higher education in the United States has existed for many years (Samuel). Many activists, students, and advocates have tried pushing for this idea. One of the significant issues that pushed these people to advocate for free higher education is the issue of unending student loan debt. For instance, in 2020, approximately 45 million students owed the government around 1.56 trillion in student debt (Friedman). This phenomenon results from the increasing cost of college and university education, leaving students with no alternative but to acquire loans to fund their education (Perna et al.).
Furthermore, proponents of the notion that higher education should be free claim it would secure the nation’s future by positively contributing to the economy and reducing social problems and inequality. However, critics of free higher education view it as a faulty policy doomed to fail since it will augment inequality, compromise the quality of education, and not guarantee elevated completion rates (Friedman). Nevertheless, higher education should be free since its benefits outweigh the disadvantages. This essay will comprehensively discuss why higher education should be free and its counter-arguments.
Proponents of free higher education cite various reasons for supporting this idea. First, freeing higher education in the USA will decrease inequality rates (Vedder). Social inequality is one of the reasons why some people advocate for free education in the United States. Learners from unfortunate families cannot pursue further studies due to the likelihood of incurring vast amounts of debt after school. Besides, free higher education will likely lessen under-matching (selection of universities and colleges based on financial needs). Undermatching makes students from low-income families miss out best opportunities in colleges that match their academic achievements, thus negatively impacting these students.
Second, free higher education will eliminate the debt burden for most students. As much as higher education is increasingly essential, it is also progressively expensive. The higher cost of university education shuts the dreams of many students from less-fortunate families. Most of these students opt to risk it and pursue further studies, but upon completion, they are left with a considerable debt to clear, thus ending up stressed or depressed. According to a particular study by Friedman, nine out of ten loan borrowers experience anxiety due to the debt burden (Friedman). Doing away with students’ debt burden will encourage more learners to pursue further studies after high school regardless of their financial situation, thus boosting America’s future economy.
Third, providing students with free higher education will produce a solid and competent workforce. Higher education is a good investment in the country’s future since it allows many young and enthusiastic minds to advance their careers (Perner et al.). Society tends to believe that college graduates are more competent in the job sector, unlike those with high school diplomas, thus contributing more to the nation’s economic productivity. The advanced performance standards in the contemporary world require personnel with broader and deeper skills, knowledge, and abilities in the job industry. Even though computerized technology automates almost all industrial processes, people must have outstanding cognitive and non-cognitive competencies to deliver the best services (Samuel). Universities and colleges are the perfect institutions to equip people with the skills to create a competent workforce.
Fourth, providing free higher education is crucial since it will fuel the USA’s economic growth. When college students enter the world debt-free, they will have unlimited opportunities to spend, save and invest their income, boosting economic growth (Friedman). The spending creates higher demand and a need for more employment opportunities. As much as technological advancement has increased productivity and less dependency on the workforce, its growing importance has increased the demand for an educated workforce. Overall industrial productivity comprises innovation which in turn increases value. The upsurge in demand for highly educated personnel that can harness technological power is a significant feature of the current post-industrial economy.
Fifth, free higher education will likely reduce social problems like drug abuse, early marriages, and social crime. People with a college education will likely be easily absorbed in the employment sector (Samuel). As a result, they may end up in early marriages or abusive relationships, and some may opt to engage in crime. However, if someone gets to acquire higher education, they develop critical thinking that impacts their general lifestyle. Higher education reduces crime and promotes good behavior among individuals. Lastly, from a philosophical point of view, proponents of free higher education state that the US government must provide its people with free education. This should serve as a right, not a privilege, as opponents of this ideology claim (Perner et al.). Making free higher education a right for every student will do away with the problem of student debt post-studies.
On the other hand, critics of free higher education argue that free higher education does not reduce inequality. Instead, it deepens inequality in society through wealth concentration among the high-class society members (Horn). Students from wealthy families will also benefit from the free education. Since this group of individuals has a solid foundation in primary education, there would be a significant gap in terms of earnings, enhancing social inequality.
Also, free education does not guarantee high completion rates since some students might not be willing to attend college after high school. Apart from financial constraints, other reasons that might hinder students from attending college include family issues. Opponents of free education also argue that students may not be motivated to complete their studies if offered freely. These students will continually be shifting from one program to another, thus prolonging their stay in school. On the contrary, if students cater to their college fees, they will be committed to studying hard and completing their programs. Lastly, a free college education does not guarantee a competent workforce (Horn). Opponents of this move argue that free education compromises its quality. Thus, there are other guarantees of a strong workforce in the job industry.
In conclusion, it is wise to make higher education free and accessible to all. Making higher education free in the USA will decrease inequality rates. Social inequality is one of the reasons why some people advocate for free education in the United States. Also, free higher education will eliminate the debt burden for most students. Doing away with students’ debt burden will encourage more learners to pursue further studies after high school regardless of their financial situation, thus boosting America’s future economy. Even though the arguments from both the proponents and opponents of free higher education are valid, the government must make higher education accessible to all. This approach will provide many youngsters in the US with an opportunity to explore their interests and be absorbed in the job market.
Friedman, Zack. Student Loan Debt Statistics in 2020: A Record $1.6 Trillion. Forbes, February 3, 2020. Available from https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2020/02/03/student-loan-debt-statistics/?sh=5c78811a281f June 24, 2023.
Horn, Michael, B. Five Reasons Why Free College Doesn’t Make the Grade. Forbes, July 16, 2019. Available from https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelhorn/2019/07/16/five-reasons-why-free-college-doesnt-make-the-grade/?sh=48100f7ba6c1 June 24, 2023.
Perna, Laura.W., Wright-Kin, Jeremy, and Leigh, Elain, W. Is a College Promise Program an Effective Use of Resources? Understanding the Implications of Program Design and Resource Investments for Equity and Efficiency. American Educational Research Association, Vol. 6, no.4, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858420967633
Samuels, Robert. Why public higher education should be free: How to decrease cost and increase quality at American universities. Rutgers University Press, 2019.
Vedder, Richard. The Case Against Free College Tuition. Forbes, April 12, 2018. Available from https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardvedder/2018/04/12/the-free-tuition-craze-now-new-jersey/?sh=5f25f8711b2a June 24, 2023.