Rising cost of college tuition and persistent growth of student loans debt in the United States have motivated many observers to call for the scrapping of college fees altogether. The argument is based on the idea that free access to college and other higher learning institutions has the potential to improve the socioeconomic conditions of Americans more than the current scenario where a majority of young Americans are expected to take government loans to finance their college education. However, others see the clamor for the abolition of college fees as a misguided idea since the growth of incomes is affected by several factors besides one's educational qualifications. If college could be free to all people who have a high school education, it would stimulate the economy by creating a more educated workforce and it would allow the students to focus more on learning and building the economy.
Reducing college fees would over time eliminate the high debt burden on many graduates and the economy as a whole. Outstanding debt has increased significantly over the last decade and currently stands at $1.5 trillion. Each year, at least one million student borrowers default on their loans, with estimates indicating that 40 percent of borrowers would default on their student loans by 2023(Nova ). Since the constant rise in the rate of default among student borrowers has been the trend over the last decade, it can be inferred that outstanding debt on student loans would represent a substantial economic burden to student borrowers in the future. Even as of today, many graduates are struggling to repay their loans, making it difficult for them to build incomes necessary to improve their socioeconomic well-being. When incomes of graduates are squeezed beyond their means, the affected individuals live a hand-to-mouth life. As a result, these persons do not make any meaningful savings thereby hampering their ability to make investments in the economy. This outcome drags down economic growth in the country.
College education should be free as it can lead to a reduction of poverty among disadvantaged populations. The students most affected by the rising cost of college tuition hail from low-income and middle-income families (Hill). At the same time, people who fail to repay their student loans are more likely to live in Hispanic and Black neighborhoods. This is because people of color have less parental wealth to rely on in self-sustenance as well as have lower rates of acquiring employment (Nova). These economic disadvantages make many graduates from Hispanic and Black populations to be entangled in debt as many spend most of their early working years repaying their loans at the expense of improving their socioeconomic conditions. Therefore, college fees promote the cycle of poverty among vulnerable groups such as Hispanic and Black populations.
Making college education free can significantly increase access to higher education. Considering the harrowing accounts of the burden of debt among graduates who acquired loans to study, a considerable number of aspiring students from low and middle-income backgrounds are shying away from attending college due to the psychological torture associated with student loan repayment. The worry about the consequence of taking loans to finance college education makes many students from the mentioned households consider college education as a risk affair hence more likely to decide against attending college. Besides, students are required to pay back their loans even before completing college. This is worsened by the fact that the affected students do not have the requisite academic qualification to secure gainful employment which they would, in turn, earn sufficient income to start paying the loans (Freedman). Lack of college attendance creates a favorable environment for the affected persons to be involved in socioeconomic issues such as crime and drug trafficking to achieve desired goals in the society. The psychological impact of struggling with debt while learning can translate into adverse outcomes in studies as well as cause health problems to the affected students.
Individuals that argue against college-free education cite increased negative impact of additional taxes on the economy. They further suggest that making college education free cannot translate superior economic returns because college diplomas do not provide necessary means through which learners acquire the right skills to face the employment world (Vedder). While the mentioned outcomes may be true, it may not be the obvious case with students from low and middle-income countries. As such, making college education free by funding the cost through increased taxes can reduce the incomes of specific groups but increase the opportunity for millions of aspiring students from poor backgrounds.
In conclusion, college education should be offered at no cost to reduce the debt burden on graduates who would otherwise make a more significant contribution to the growth and development of the economy. Making college education free can also reduce poverty, especially among students hailing from low and middle-income households. Moreover, the scrapping of college fees has the potential to increase access to college education in the United States. Although financing of free college education would lead to increased economic burden on citizens in the form of additional taxes, the significance of the overall positive effect of free college education on the country is a policy worthy considering by stakeholders of the education system.
Freedman, Josh. "Student Loans Are A Drag On The Economy And Society." Forbes, 2014.
Hill, Catharine. "Free Tuition Is Not the Answer." The New York Times, [New York], 2015.
Nova, Annie. "More Than 1 Million People Default on Their Student Loans Each Year." CNBC, 20 June 2018, www.cnbc.com/2018/08/13/twenty-two-percent-of-student-loan-borrowers-fall-into-default.html.
Vedder, Richard. "The Case Against Free College Tuition." Forbes, 2018.
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