America might be known as the “land of the free,” but attending college in the U.S. is anything but.
Most people think that after high school the only logical thing to do is to go to college, but for some, this is only a dream because they can’t afford it. Since the 1980s the price of college tuition alone has almost doubled, and this doesn’t include extra costs such as room and board or dining, according to University of the People (UoPeople).
Student loans and college tuition are higher than ever. From 2008–2018, tuition fees have increased by 36%; meanwhile, the median income has only increased by 2.1%, says UoPeople. Every year the price of college goes up, and if that didn’t already make it hard enough for some students, acceptance rates keep on changing and getting lower. It has been shown that since the 1980s, the cost of an undergraduate degree has increased by a shocking 213% at public schools and 129% at private schools.
Low-income students don’t have the money or resources to go to college. They don’t have a family legacy that automatically admits them or has a library named after them. These students have to work harder than everyone else, and even then due to the cost, still can’t get the education they want. This is why college should be free or be greatly reduced for low-income families.
College tuition alone is nothing like it used to be. As seen in the graph from Business Insider, college tuition has skyrocketed. Tuition in 1980 used to be half of what it was in 2015, but now in 2021, according to USNews, that margin has gotten even bigger with the average price tuition being $41,411 at private colleges, $11,171 for state residents at public colleges and $26,809 for out-of-state students at state schools.
The U.S. has over $1.4 trillion in student debt, one of the largest in the world. Meanwhile, in countries like Germany and Sweden, students can attend university free of charge. Danish students also receive about $900 (5,839 DKK) per month through a program called Statens Uddannelsesstøtte (“state education”) to help cover living expenses while they are getting their college degree.
Universities like The University of Tokyo, which is on the list of “Best Universities in Asia,” only cost ¥535,800 (roughly $4,735) for one year in the undergraduate program. Japan’s low cost of college has also resulted in a highly educated population: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that the country has the second-highest level of adult education in the world, with nearly 50 percent of citizens completing a tertiary level education.
Three of the five top colleges in South America are in Brazil, a country with free public college. The OECD reports that the Brazilian government allocates nearly 20% of its budget to education, while the US only spends around 3.6%. Over 6% of Brazil’s GDP goes towards education. This just goes to prove that free or reduced college not only helps the students but the country as a whole as well.
Now you may think that making college free or reducing the price will only negatively impact the institution itself, whether it be not making enough money or now having to accept more students. This would not be the case, though; colleges and universities already receive funding from the U.S. government, according to Datalab. In 2018, 3.6% of federal spending or $149 billion of total spending was for colleges and universities. Every college receives a different amount, but this still shows that colleges would have money. Not only do colleges receive money from the government in the action I am stating only low-income families would receive the free college/reduced price, this makes it that the majority of students would still be paying full tuition if they can afford it.
You might also be wondering why we need this if financial aid exists to cover the cost of tuition for low-income students. Financial aid does help cover a portion of the college tuition for students but not all of it. Only about 10% of undergraduate students have enough financial aid to cover the full cost of attendance. This leaves the other 90% of students who receive financial aid to have to pay a part of the tuition and the other expenses of housing, dining and more.
As for the admissions process, this too would stay the same, as everyone must be qualified to still attend the college. College acceptance rates constantly change with one year either being higher or lower than the previous, and class sizes are bound to be bigger every year as more and more people apply to colleges. This will not only allow more money for the college but also keep the admissions process the same.
Education is a great opportunity. It could open up more jobs for qualified people and help the economy. Having a higher education is also better for the community as well with more people educated. Everyone should have a chance to be able to take part in this opportunity. College should not just be a dream for some and a requirement for others. Everyone should be able to go and achieve their goals no matter the circumstances.