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The Real Cost of Making College Free

By: Scott Pavord

The cost of college tuition is a current dilemma. Some argue that college should be free. As a 10th grade student, you may be surprised to hear I disagree. There’s no reasonable way to make it free. Where and more importantly, how do you get that funding? It’s a big question and can affect many students’ futures. 

My first reason to support why I believe college shouldn’t be free is graduation rates. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, in a six year time frame at public universities, the approximate graduation rate is 58%. That’s quite low when you’re engaging in a discussion of free education for all. Now imagine how low that number would be if you make college free. Some kids would go to college just because it's free and not care if they flunk out. At community college, the graduation rate is less than 40%. Opening doors to kids who typically wouldn’t go since there’s a financial risk would potentially drive graduation rates down. This makes the college look bad and can negatively impact their reputation.

Advocates of free college will argue that lower income families will be able to take on the risk of attending if the tuition is free. Currently, the lower income family graduation rate is 16% based on reports from the National Center for Education Statistics. The issue is not allowing access for this group. The issue should be fixing the problem of why it’s such a low percentage. 

One of the main reasons people want this is because loans would disappear and they would be clear of debt. Bernie Sanders has made it apparent that he wants tuition to be free and cancel all debt. But where is this money going to come from? Just raising taxes is a weak compromise and unfair to the majority. After doing some research and reading Mr.Sanders website there’s not a lot to prove how he can. He states all these things he will do once in office. It's quite laughable how little he touches on how he’ll accomplish this. He states he’s going to raise taxes on Wall Street, but how will he do this? 

On average, one year of college (covering all costs-not just tuition) is currently $25K in state and $40K out of state according to a 2019 report from valuepenguin.com. That is ridiculously high for college tuition but a poor reason to believe college should be 100% free. I personally believe college is way overpriced and instead of making it free, yearly costs should be lowered. This is easier said than done, like most things, but if we were to put a cap on tuition and grant more scholarships based on GPA and income it would solve the problem. Additionally, it may keep the majority happy and would still give kids from all sorts of family backgrounds an education. That’s the main goal we can all agree on; education is important. Currently there’s a total of $1.41 trillion worth of student loan debt. This is absurdly high but to pay that off by just making college free and “eliminating” the debt won’t do anything. You’re going to need proper funding to accumulate $1.41 trillion, and I doubt just raising taxes on Wall Street will put a dent in that number.

Free college doesn’t mean everyone goes. Students will still have to get accepted. If someone with a 2.0 GPA applies to Harvard, they will not be accepted. The issue is before students attend college. Poorly funded K-12 schools in communities should be the main focus on helping students get better grades and raise acceptance rates.

If the average graduation rate is roughly 50%, that means to pay for everyone’s college you would lose 50% of your investment. I would rather pay for a portion of students where I know 100% of the investment will result in a degree or a benefit towards society. 


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