For many high school graduates, continuing the studies at college is a logical, well-weighted decision that leads to gaining professional knowledge and, in perspective, to better paid jobs. However, not all can afford the long-term investment of postsecondary education. The problem hides within the increasing tuition costs for many universities in the US. While low-income applicants can enter college and pay partial expenses because of the financial aid and government funds, the growing amount of loans is common for most of the student bodies across the country. More than that, the modern approach of for-profit universities poses a threat to the future of the nationwide economy. Thus, postsecondary education should be free because it promotes equal opportunities, supports the economy by mediating the student loans’ impact, and provides learners with a better academic environment.
First of all, reduced or eliminated cost of higher education will allow many marginalized students who are not able to afford it to attend college, which promotes equality. For instance, Perna et al. examine New York, Tennessee, and Oregon institutions that already start implementing the tuition-free programs. Their findings show that when liberated from additional costs, the students are more likely to “encourage college enrollment among at least some individuals who would not otherwise have enrolled” (Perna et al. 1742). The authors also provide the rationale of why equal education is imperative by stating that the current socio-economic, racial, and ethnic composition of most student bodies in the US is far from fair. Thus, the proposed solution of no-cost universities will eliminate the inequality by providing access to education for excluded groups of people who cannot afford it.
Secondly, as opposed to the tuition-free institutions, the current system puts a financial burden on both the undergraduates and the national economy. Therefore, a sufficient resolution of the economic impact might be in implementing no-charge education. According to Baum, “the effects of mounting financial obligations associated with student loans are becoming more evident as debt levels rise, and the effects are likely to be felt far into the future” (p. 17). The amount borrowed for student loans has risen by 70 per cent, and this financial obligation might affect the retirement fund, the social security system, and the housing market for the Millennial generation (Baum, p. 19). These risks associated with gradually growing college costs and consequently, the student debt urge for a solution, and tuition-free education might be one of them. For instance, Haslam, a Tennessee academic leader, claims that with free knowledge, more qualified graduates will enter the market and strengthen the existing workforce (Tran et al, p. 468). Thus, cost-free studying is a key to supporting the economy.
While the overwhelming costs of colleges force many students to suffer from debt-related stress and failure to graduate, tuition-free approach liberates people from the financial burden and provides them with a safe environment to study. According to Tran et al., “Results of the study affirm the health impact of both student loan amount and the subjective appraisal of stress associated with student loan debt as significant stressors” (p. 460). Furthermore, the financial obligation makes undergraduates susceptive to health risks, and shifts focus from educational attainment to taking care about one’s psychological health, which in turn causes many people to leave the institutions before graduating (Tran et al, p. 465). These consequences cannot be overseen when discussing the advantages of tuition-free colleges. Tran et al. argue that when freed from the constant stress of financial anxiety, students can better focus on their studies, which leads to better educational outcomes (p. 461). Thus, it can be argued that free college is better since it gives students the freedom to study with no psychological pressure and to focus on the learning process.
Some researchers and educators, however, claim that for-profit colleges are the only way to ensure the sustainable learning outcomes. Sperling claims that regular tuition-based studying focuses on profit, which in turn results in responsiveness to market demands and highly focused educational attainment (p. 32). Consequently, if the profit incentive would be eliminated from the postsecondary education system, the professors and the schools’ administration would not be motivated to pursue the best learning outcomes. Thus, cost-free system can lead to the loss of quality of teaching because of lack of competition and reasons to provide students with the best knowledge. While this point might be valid to some extent, this approach also excludes many students. The overwhelming expenses do not justify the educational outcomes that are achieved by excluding minorities and repressing the economy. According to Perna et al., the current trend of growing education expenses is forecasted to have an irreversible effect on the economy, as well as to further establish the racial, ethnic, and socio-economic repression. Thus, the implementation of no-charge institutions is essential for both the economy and the overall equality.
In conclusion, free colleges are needed to sustain the economy, mediate the detrimental effects of student debt, allow more people to receive education, and facilitate the psychological finance-related pressure of studying for better educational attainment. As more people who previously were unable to afford college receive an opportunity to do so, the student bodies nationwide become more diverse and freer of discrimination. Furthermore, the impact that student loans have on the future of the economy will be eliminated. Lastly, the stress associated with debt will no longer be a barrier to graduating and learning.
- Baum, Sandy. “Student Loan Programs and the Realities of Student Debt.” Student Debt, 2016, pp. 17–42, doi:10.1057/978-1-137-52738-7_2.
- Perna, Laura W., et al. “‘Free College:’ A New and Improved State Approach to Increasing Educational Attainment?” American Behavioral Scientist, vol. 61, no. 14, 2017, pp. 1740–1756, doi:10.1177/0002764217744821.
- Sperling, John. For-Profit Higher Education: Developing a World Class Workforce. Routledge, 2017.
- Tran, Alisia G. T. T., et al. “At What Costs? Student Loan Debt, Debt Stress, and Racially/Ethnically Diverse College Students’ Perceived Health.” Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, vol. 24, no. 4, 2018, pp. 459–469, doi:10.1037/cdp0000207.