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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Opinion

Free tuition is not the way to eliminate student debt


Eliminating student debt sounds like a great idea, but free tuition is not the answer. Students have many other options. | Jiselle Santos/ The Cougar

Eliminating student debt and making college free sounds like a good idea, but nothing is really free. Making college free would cost $453.7 billion a year over many years, and it would be coming from taxes. 

Students should still pursue higher education despite the cost because there are always affordability options, from online school to serving in the army, even with rising debts.

Also, a few tuition-free accredited colleges already exist in the United States for students who meet certain criteria, including Alice Lloyd College and Webb Institute, to name a few.

Pursuing higher education leaves many graduates with so much debt that it makes it hard to achieve at least a middle-class lifestyle. Many students may choose alternate routes to attending university when the cost is too high. But that makes those students who do not pursue higher education less likely to find good employment or find their dream job.

Some people often complain that college was once free, at least a public land-grant college. But that was possible because there were fewer students. As enrollment grew and a higher percentage of Americans applied to attend college, it required more funding to keep the colleges.

The total amount of student loan debt in the United States was about $1.5 trillion in 2018. Also, student loans are “the most dominant type of financial aid,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Ten million college students received student loans in the 2012-2013 school year alone.

The federal government spent more than $80 billion in 2014 on higher education financial aid, not including loans. In the 2012-2013 school year, the $80 billion accounted for 70 percent of all financial aid given to students. 

In addition to government spending, there are numerous programs in place around the country. For example, the Kalamazoo Promise in Michigan is a four-year scholarship that has been in effect since 2006. All students who were continuously enrolled in the Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) district since at least the beginning of high school and successfully graduate are eligible to have all their tuition and fees covered for undergraduate years at any public college or university in Michigan.

The University of Houston has a program similar to the Kalamazoo Promise called the Cougar Promise, and students can graduate from any Texas high school to be eligible. Eligibility is determined by listing UH in FAFSA forms. It may guarantee tuition and mandatory fees for freshmen with family incomes at or below $50,000 as long as they meet certain academic requirements.

With the options and programs mentioned above, student debt has to fall on someone. One solution is to increase tax rates on people making above a specific income.

Another solution is a speculation tax that would charge those in trade markets for each bond, stock or derivative they sell. It’s often referred to as a Robin Hood tax.

While raising taxes like this isn’t ideal, when combined with other options such as students joining the armed forces and programs like the Cougar Promise, there are many ways to help decrease student debt without making colleges tuition-free.

Opinion Editor Maryam Baldawi is a biology junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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