Education Should Be Free
For a nation to prosper, its population should be adequately skilled and motivated to ensure success in today’s global marketplace. An educated and motivated population is equipped enough to develop solutions to the complex problems of the 21st century. Furthermore, education today is a human right. Consequently, in most countries, elementary and secondary education is free. Some countries have surpassed the rest and have made higher education free. Despite the significance of education to the sustainable development of national and global economies, countries such as America still expensively charge for higher education. The price of tuition in America is higher today than it was fifty years ago when adjusted for inflation (Mitchell et al. 1). Although implementing free education policies has high start-up costs, America can and should lower or eliminate the costs of education by reforming policies, investing more in education, incorporating technology, regulating the industry, and reducing unnecessary spending.
Considerably lowering the cost of education or making it free will promote the financial standing of students and graduates by improving their credit score, which is beneficial to the whole economy. A strong economy is one that has a healthy balance of supply and demand because of high productivity and consumption. However, many students and graduates, unemployed and gainfully employed, have unpaid college debt that limits their freedom to consume goods produced in the marketplace. The interest rate at which these debtholders are obligated to pay on their debt is highly expensive. Consequently, even after leaving school and joining the workforce, most people find it hard to accumulate assets such as cars and houses. The global economy has witnessed an increase in the cost of living, which means that families around the world cannot afford to be flexible with their budgets. If education is a right that every American has, there is no reason people should accrue and shoulder debts for the rest of their lives to afford an education. Unpaid college debt inhibits the upward social mobility of graduates that their education was supposed to guarantee. If the economy is to improve, consumers need to have free cash flow to spend, which will inspire production. People will be capable of affording clothes, houses, cars, food, healthcare, and entertainment, which will translate to revenues for corporations and taxes for the government. Graduates will not have to choose between repaying their debts or paying for utilities and essentials. The workforce will experience less stress and more happiness leading to increased motivation, creativity, and productivity at the workplace, which will boost the economy.
At the college level, students can focus more on their studies and post more robust academic results without the need to worry about finances. Students who participate in work-study programs or are employed outside of their school will gain from a more luxurious relatively stress-free college experience. Students who work to pay off their tuition are more likely to drop out of college because balancing a job and school work is too taxing (Ost et al. 3). High dropout rates translate to a weaker and under-equipped workforce that will find it more challenging to compete in the global economy. The solution is to lower or eliminate tuition fees as this will free students to dedicate their full attention to their college careers. Affordable or free education means college dropout rates will fall, and this will further advance society. A flourishing society is one that permits and facilitates the maximal realization of its members’ potential. However, the combination of high living costs and expensive education inhibits the realization of a healthy, progressive society.
One other substantial reason for lowering the cost of education in America is that the quality of education has deteriorated, and it is, therefore, senseless to charge students high fees for low-quality education. Although the costs associated with elementary and secondary education for students in public schools are lower than higher education costs, the low-quality education received affects their college experience. First, funding for public schools in America has been stagnant despite the growth of the economy. The lack of funding leads to a scarcity of resources in schools, which inhibits the learning experience of students (Mitchell et al. 1). For example, when too many students attend one school, they exceed class capacity. The teachers find it challenging to address the individual needs of students once the class exceeds a capacity of 30 students. States had to raise the class size limit to accommodate more students. If students fail to receive adequate attention from their instructors, they are more likely to fail. To remedy this, the federal government instituted No Child Left Behind policies that evaluate the performance of teachers based on the outcome of standardized test results (McGuinn 2). Consequently, teachers end up preparing students for tests instead of educating them. Third, the quality of education is low because teachers are not innovative enough and still employ outdated teaching methods that were designed to meet the demands of the Industrial Revolution. Students of today have interacted with technology more than their teachers. However, the incorporation of technology in the classroom is yet to take place. Because of the lack of technology in the learning experience, the students have short attention spans during class, which leads to poor learning experiences. These students advance to college, where they experience additional difficulties.
Although free or affordable education is an elegant ideal for countries to pursue, there are some caveats. Opposers of free education argue that education cannot indeed be free and that someone must pay, namely the taxpayer. While this is a valid argument, it would be prudent to consider how European countries like Germany, Norway, Sweden, and a few others successfully implemented free education policies. One argument against free education is that the national budget cannot sustain it. However, the American government is guilty of dedicating a significant portion of the national budget to military spending. America’s military spending as a proportion of GDP exceeds NATOs recommendation (NATO 4). Instead of citing budget constraints as a valid argument against free education, naysayers should demonstrate that reducing unnecessary and excessive costs is impossible. Second, if the citizenry must pay moderate but higher taxes, it will be a fair exchange. It is better to get an education, join the workforce, and pay taxes than to struggle financially even with an education.
The incorporation of technology in schools would enhance not only the learning experience of students but also lower costs. The existence of the Internet, advanced mobile devices, and computers has not only reduced the cost of education but has also revolutionized the education industry (Brian et al. 243). Today, there are millions of courses that students and non-students can access online at little to no cost. Some universities provide world-class education and are entirely online. By combining the convenience of online education with the resources of brick and mortar campuses, America can reduce the budget needs of implementing free education policies.
Third, the successful countries ensure the free education system is well-regulated. Naysayers deem free higher education infeasible because there would be excessive demand for scarce educational resources. Too many students would enroll in college, and the government would have to incur higher costs and impose high taxes. Successful countries circumvent this issue by controlling the admittance of students to colleges and universities. National examination test scores would determine students’ entry into institutions of higher learning. The government can also control its spending more efficiently by limiting access to advanced programs by unqualified students. Additionally, if the government heavily invests in its educational infrastructure adequately, the quality of public education at all levels would be enough to render the idea of ‘superior private’ schools and institutions of higher learning powerless.
By employing well
thought out strategies such as incorporating technology, policy reform, budget
cuts, and regulation, America can successfully provide free education for its
citizens just like some European countries. The imposition of high but moderate
taxes on the populace is a valid trade-off against financial stability, peace
of mind, and societal development. Providing free education will rid millions
of Americans of the burden of debt that threatens their quality of life.
Additionally, poverty should not determine the fate of many poor Americans by
locking them out of higher education institutions that help bolster their
upward social mobility. Ultimately, the benefits of a debt-free, educated
society outweigh the costs of an inadequately educated and debt-ridden society.
Brian, Jacob, et al. “Can Technology Help Promote Equality of Educational Opportunities?” The Russell Sage Journal of the Social Sciences, vol. 2, no. 5, 2016, pp. 242–71, http://www.rsfjournal.org/doi/pdf/10.7758/RSF.2016.2.5.12.
McGuinn, Patrick. “From No Child Left behind to the Every Student Succeeds Act: Federalism and the Education Legacy of the Obama Administration.” Publius: The Journal of Federalism, vol. 46, no. 3, June 2016, pp. 392–415, doi:10.1093/publius/pjw014.
Mitchell, Michael, et al. Funding Down, Tuition Up State Cuts to Higher Education Threaten Quality and Affordability at Public Colleges. http://www.census.gov/govs/qtax/. Accessed 7 Apr. 2020.
NATO. Defense Expenditure of NATO Countries (2012-2019). 12 July 2019, www.nato.int.
Ost, Ben, et al. “The Impact of Mass Layoffs on the Educational Investments of Working College Students.” Labour Economics, vol. 51, Elsevier B.V., Apr. 2018, pp. 1–12, doi:10.1016/j.labeco.2017.11.008.