The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that about 66% of high school graduates will go on to college next year. As post-secondary tuition continues to rise, both sides of the spectrum are wondering what to do with America’s higher education system. Talk of free tuition nationwide sparked conversation. Unfortunately for students, this would probably be more problematic than beneficial.
According to editor Melanie Hanson at Education Data Initiative, the average debt for a four-year bachelor’s degree is about $28,800. It would take several billion dollars each year to pay the tuition fees of all American students.
As part of his presidential campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders suggested using programs like First Dollar, Debt Free or Pell Grant to help students pay their tuition. If we implemented such programs, money would have to be collected, taken from other areas of government budgets or taxed on transactions like those on Wall Street. The reality is that only about half of all tuition comes from tuition. Housing, books, transportation and meal plans would still be missing.
An educated population is crucial to creating a prosperous and secure society. Educated people are less likely to commit crimes or become homeless, and they do better in their jobs.
Although we would like everyone to be educated and successful, sending everyone to college is neither realistic nor beneficial. Many essential jobs do not require a degree. College has become an unnecessary wait for many high school graduates. Many students who don’t have a specific job or career path in mind go to college without a plan and drop out because they are in debt. These people tend to end up working minimum wage jobs to pay for their expenses.
Also, everyone going to college would lead to overcrowding on campuses. There would be a sudden need for more teachers and students would interact less with teachers.
High expenses force students to account for their grades. Taxpayers fear that free tuition will attract students who should not go to university. Students who didn’t take high school seriously would likely have the same habits in college, and some might just opt for the social aspect. Paying your college expenses creates an initiative to succeed because you have invested money in your education.
The college system is organized to distribute financial aid to low-income families who cannot afford to pay for their education. No one wants to lose thousands of dollars pursuing a degree. However, many middle- and upper-class Americans can take out loans or have the money to pay for their education.
The reality is that many community colleges and universities are affordable. Not everyone has to go to the best private schools or prestigious universities.
If the ultimate goal is to educate America, we must improve the public school system. Instead of making college free, the government should seek to lower tuition fees and help new students manage their student loans.
Callie Showalter is a senior at Hermantown High School. In the fall, she plans to start studying human biology at the University of Minnesota Duluth in hopes of pursuing a medical career.