Should Higher Education Be Free?

In the United States, the higher education system is largely dysfunctional and is plagued by low graduation rates. Worse, the cost of a college education has increased by over 400 percent since 1980, even after adjusting for inflation. Accumulated student debt from higher education has topped one trillion dollars and many students finish school saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. A college degree used to be a guarantee of quality employment, but that is no longer the case in the current job market.

Under intense debate is a suggestion that the federal government should fund higher education, making it free for everyone, just as the K-12 public education system already is. There are many arguments for and against this proposal.

The Cost

Detractors of free higher education invariably point to the cost, as the federal government would have to invest billions of dollars in such a program. This price, however, must be balanced with the return. If higher education were more affordable, many more young people would attend. The main reason people drop out of college is the high cost of tuition. If this obstacle were overcome, more people would graduate. More educated and skilled people in the workforce is always good for an economy. Additionally, graduating free of debt enables people to spend more money, which stimulates the economy.

The International Perspective

The United States is losing ground to international students. Free higher education would enable the U.S. to better compete with other countries that already offer free or subsidized higher education to their population. Detractors of this proposal claim that people do not value things that are free. However, a close look at the young graduates of universities in other countries negates this idea.

Standards of Living

More education has been linked with increased happiness, better health, and less crime in society, and some have argued that better access to higher education could reduce crime. Free higher education would also help lessen the gap between rich and poor, as advanced degrees would not only be available to the people who can now afford them.

New Models of Education

Implementing free higher education would likely entail an overhaul of the existing educational system. If much of the accredited instruction were video recorded and taught online, it would cost a lot less than current instructional methods. Instead of live professors in classrooms, online mentors could check student work and offer advice from a computer. Many top high-tech companies are willing to hire people with online degrees, and most universities have already begun offering online courses and certification for far less cost than normal college tuition. With this educational model, costs of free higher education would become much cheaper.

Most Americans agree that it is important to increase the number of citizens with degrees in higher education. The question is how best to achieve this desirable goal. Rather than be considered a mere high-priced job training market, higher education should be an investment in a better society.

Gerald Bannister writes on education, career development, professional training, business management, finance, accounting, banking and other topics as well. Gerald recommends that financial accounting jobs with for those looking to possibly enter the accounting world.

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