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Monday, March 30, 2020

Opinion

Tuition-free college encourages academic commitment


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The average student who takes student loans will leave college with around $30,000 in debt. | Pablo Milanese/The Cougar

Imagine attending a prominent public university — an institution of higher learning that offers some of the best courses, professors and advisers a student could hope for.

Unfortunately, this university requires tuition. To pay this tuition, students have to work a part-time job in between classes. These students pay for college out of pocket, so they’re forced to take less classes to focus on their job and pay even a portion of their tuition.

If they didn’t have to pay tuition, they would be able to finish their academics and start their careers sooner.

Now visualize UH, and think about all the people who go to our school who have been forced to focus more on how to pay for tuition than their actual academic careers.

This is why we need tuition-free public universities. It levels the educational field for everyone who desires it.

“(Making college tuition-free) would affect me in a positive way,” said electrical engineering junior Ermias Kebede. “I’m paying out of my pocket. This would actually help me finish my school earlier than what I’m expecting right now because after work I have to take lesser classes.”

Relieving students of the pressures of debt will give them the opportunity to focus more on their studies and let those not-so-well-off have the opportunity to seek higher education.

Like all reforms, the underlying issues of tuition-free public universities are ideology and implementation. Do we just focus on Texas and hope for the best for other states? Or do we call for a nationwide focus, like presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is doing?

The even bigger question is: how do we pay for it?

It’s a real possibility that everyone would have to pay more taxes in order to achieve this, but this could be solved in Texas by applying a progressive state income tax rate instead of a sales tax. Have those with higher incomes pay more in taxes, while those with low or middle incomes pay low to moderate taxes. It is not a new idea. This idea of implementation, however, has caused some to question whether it would really help students at all.

“It wouldn’t be free for the students,” said economics junior Stephen Nunez. “It will just mean that they will pay higher taxes and lose more of their future income for the rest of their working lives, as well as those that never went or don’t want to go to college. So free will be more expensive for everyone.”

This is a serious concern for anyone who wants to relieve students of student debt. What would higher taxes do to people in the long run of a state? Is it fair to make people who have no desire to go to college help pay for it? This question goes back to the issue of ideology.

I would rather have a government in the spirit of charity than a government that executes prisoners, denies women accessible health coverage, or refuses to implement a taxation system that does not benefit the wealthy. I believe the responsibility of the state should be focused on making college more affordable for its citizens.

It would be tragic for any potential student to focus more on how to pay for college than how to accomplish their academic duty. What is the academic duty? It is what Woodrow Wilson described.

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”

Opinion columnist Samuel Pichowsky is a political science sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]

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