A Higher Education in the United States Should Be Free

Arielle Jean, Columnist

Should a Higher Education in the United States be Free?

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  Education is perceived by most to be one of the most foundational building blocks of democracy and development as a nation. In the US, however, access to a higher education is limited largely by monetary constraints where college is a privilege reserved for those who can afford it. In order to support the development of the United States, and continue to advocate for an educated citizenry, college should be free so that an individual’s ability to contribute to society is not barred by the value of their bank account.

  The class divide between the ability to attend college and the inability to based on financial status has become increasingly relevant in the past several decades where the national average cost to attend a public university has consistently increased. In 1988 the average cost of attendance was just $3,190 per year, in 2000 $10,751 per year and in 2018 the national average was $17,797 per year (National Center for Education Statistics). A common explanation for this increase is the natural inflation of the US dollar, however, even if the average cost of college tuition in 2000 had been adjusted to reflect the value of the dollar in 2018, there still would be an observed 13 percent increase in cost over an eighteen year time period and an 112.3 percent increase in cost of college tuition from 1988 to 2018. This rise in college tuition will disproportionately affect the enrollment rates of individuals who come from low income families, consequently gate keeping access to a higher education from our most vulnerable citizens.

  This practice is designed to keep the poor poor, evidence for which we have seen in the recent pandemic where wage inequality by education was illuminated by economic downfall. According to EdSource, in May of 2020 the unemployment rate among workers with high school diplomas was “triple the rate of workers with a bachelor’s degree,” thus individuals with the least educational experience were hit the hardest by the recession. By limiting the educational, and thus future financial and future career, opportunities for lower income individuals we subsequently prevent them from accessing a realm of political advocacy and engagement. Future politicians and lawmakers are required to have an educational background that extends beyond a high school education, as do engineers, doctors, lawyers, technicians, teachers, etc. By actively choosing to exclude our less financially advantaged peers, we restrict the expanse of knowledge we have access to, where the potential solution to world hunger or climate change is lost to the economic greed of college institutions.