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Talk it out: Is free tuition a viable option?

Illustration by: Maria Tahir | Staff Illustrator

Free college tuition an affront to taxpayers, reform is needed
By Jessica King

While free tuition and affordable college sound nice in theory, these political promises made by certain liberal candidates are neither feasible nor logical in the current American structure.

Between rapid spending, debt and budget cuts, America is already drowning financially. In this current economy, it would be a fallacious position for any presidential candidate to endorse or propose. America simply cannot afford any more expenses.

One thing to consider is despite the appearance of socialist countries, their programs do not always work. For instance, in Spain, the government is heavily socialist and did have free college. However, between the free four-year degrees and various other welfare programs, Spain fell into near bankruptcy and was forced to cut down on socialist spending.

Socialist countries are not always what they appear to be, and one needs to do proper research before hopping on the “well, it works in (insert country here)” bandwagon.

Aside from the cost of implementing free tuition policies, people rarely appreciate anything deemed free-of-charge. I never appreciated half of what I was given until my senior year of college, when I realized just how much was sacrificed.

So, on the off chance Bernie Sanders becomes president, there will need to be rules implemented, including a limit to the amount of years taxpayers have to flood their money into the system. However, perhaps the most important rule needs to be GPA requirements.

If students cannot make the grades, taxpayers do not need to fund them. Period. There also needs to be a limit on how many chances there should be if a student falls below the GPA requirement.

However, rules or not, America’s primary concern should not be about giving free education, but in reforming the education system. As it is, teachers who decline in their schooling abilities after reaching tenure are then moved to another school in the same district. After educators fail a certain amount of times, they are moved to a facility to, for a lack of better terms, vegetate.

A miniscule amount of graduates feel educationally fulfilled after graduation. Instead of fighting so hard for free higher learning, political officials need to redirect all of their energy and resources to achieving quality education.

Whether it is free or not, no one wants a piece of paper bought on the dime of a taxpayer or anyone else. They want to be accomplished, self-sufficient and enlightened.

Free education is not the answer. Reformed education at an affordable price is a much better choice. America should strive for legislation to put a cap on tuition costs, or perhaps some other measure to make it so the average Joes who have more than one child do not have to give an arm and a leg to pay for their future.

This is what we need, America. Not free tuition—which some students might not appreciate, could plunge us further into debt and strain taxpayers’ pockets—but reform. Reform is key.

Free tuition a valuable solution to rising student debt
By Nathan Steinle

American educational models are obsolete.

For the last few decades, young Americans have gone to college out of fear that not getting a degree would ensure them a life of hardship. Now, that fear is being trumped by another: the fear of being trapped in an avalanche of student debt and not having a job with sufficient pay to cover the cost.

From the latest figures in 2014, it was estimated that a staggering 70 percent of American students graduate with some level of debt averaged at about $33,000. For those that need a more palpable view, there is a live student debt growth meter. Amazingly, American student debt is over $1.2 trillion and counting.

The causes of skyrocketing university costs are many and complex. However, we can make the effects irrelevant by making tuition a thing of the past—just as many, more progressive countries have.

Education is the best tool at improving economic mobility and thus the quality of life for an individual. Nevertheless, the current debt ridden American system is a manifestation of our real attitude toward education: a privilege. Instead, education ought to be viewed as a fundamental right so we all start at the same level on the economic ladder with respect to gaining edification. This way, earning an education does not depend on parent income.

America has a shortage in proficient workers for skilled jobs. A bridge will replace the fence of privilege that currently divides higher education from low-income families if we shift the burden of payment from the individual to taxes. The theoretical bridge will allow more Americans a chance to earn a degree and take on our country’s demand of skilled workers.

Education plays a key role in moving low-income citizens up the economic ladder, but the current system disenfranchises those people. Not to mention, social mobility in America is at an all-time low.

For instance, college graduation rates vary drastically according to a student’s family income. Unsurprisingly, those with higher incomes have a much larger chance of graduating than those with lower incomes.

Everyone needs to start off on equal footing by viewing education as a right, not a privilege. Viewing education as a right involves the government, so then is Bernie Sanders’ proposition of “free” college a practical solution to the problem?

The answer is yes and no. The idea for a single-payer system, where the government pays for the educational services and fees normally billed to students, is currently the best method by which to equalize access to educational opportunities.

A problem with Sanders’ plan, however, is it fails to include any mechanism by which to clean up college and university budgets. For example, in many institutions, the football coaches have higher salaries than the university presidents. Tax dollars should not be paying football coaches. Countless studies demonstrate how inefficient university budgets are and how schools can clean up their finances without having to reduce their staffs.

Even if you do not like Sanders’ plan, we cannot let this problem fester for much longer because the student debt bubble is likely to burst soon. Sanders’ plan is estimated to cost about $75 billion annually, which is less than one-tenth of the total debt accrued by students. This candidate’s plan is at the very least a reasonable step forward.

Do not forget that in this age of information, America can lead the world in educational innovation and reinvent systems far more efficiently than what this planet has seen.