Over the past several years, young Americans have faced the daunting economy upon completing their undergraduate degrees and after being thrust into a seemingly jobless country. Underemployment hast stifled development and innovation. Tuition, room and board, and general living expenses are a nightmare to the current college student, never mind the high interest rates we will face upon repaying our loans. Quite frankly: American college students are panicking.
Across the sea, Germany has abolished its tuition fees, making college education completely free. How surreal? It was only natural that young people here in America stopped and said, “Wait, why not us? Why do I have to pay?” Of course, the absence of tuition is incredibly appealing to any student trying to get a great education, especially in an economy that isn’t at its best.
But that’s just it. With the absence of tuition fees, no on will be getting a free college education that is actually great, or even decent. Logically, here is what free college will look like in America: If public colleges were to abolish tuition fees, we would be kissing the quality of our education goodbye.
I attend the College of William & Mary, a public institution in Williamsburg, Virginia. William & Mary is considered to be a “Public Ivy League” school, meaning our academics are just as strong as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc. Currently, the tuition fees for William & Mary account for 43.1% of the operating revenue. Funds from the state of Virginia only account for 13.4% of such revenue. The school’s revenue is applied largely to the payment of the professors here, along with the services offered to the students here and other general maintenance tasks.
I’m lucky that I’m receiving such an amazing education and at a state-level cost. But if we stop paying tuition, who picks up the burden? It is not possible to rely on donations, so will the state of Virginia then foot the bill? Or will the federal government pay?
Neither the federal nor state government is in any financial shape to add the debt of abolishing just one school’s tuition, never mind all of the public institutions. To do so would only hurt us, the young students, in the long run because we would be seeing the effects of this debt later in life when our taxes are raised exponentially as we try and pay off loans, start families, and buy cars and houses.
It is obvious that, if we were to rely on the governments to fund education, funds would become stretched. We would see tangible consequences in the number of services offered to students that are already free. Further, if the goal is to take the burden off of the students, then the salaries of our professors might also be targeted, making it less attractive for quality instructors with unique experiences to join our academic community.
I’ve gone through the logical, fiscal argument against “free college”, but there is a broader argument to be made as well. The fact that there are now students demanding the total abolition of tuition indicates the growing level of American entitlement (as if there wasn’t enough entitlement to begin with). Society jumps at the word “free” without thinking of the consequences, and increasingly pines for more tangible rewards with less actual work. The fact that implementing drug-testing into the process of receiving welfare is a controversial topic indicates how far we have wandered from the American dream which brought so many people from around the world to our nation.
Where did the determination to be one’s own success go? It went when we started interpreting welfare as the haphazard doling out of resources rather than as a safety net for those going through rough times. It went when we stopped expecting able-bodied persons on welfare to try and seek out employment. Now, we hand out money for the sake of existing, and we take that money away from those who are working hard to put their resources and talent into the system for the benefit of society at large. I have seen so many hardworking, generous people suffer since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act–families who used to be able to get the care they needed, but now cannot afford it since premiums have skyrocketed. These hardworking people who expected nothing from the government are the ones suffering now: they are the ones responsible for funding universal healthcare, yet they cannot get the quality care they deserve.
Everything in American politics circles back around. The entitlement mentality that demanded universal healthcare is the same that demands free college education. We have seen a decrease in the quality of healthcare since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act; is it not logical to predict the same decrease in the quality of educational institutions if we abolish tuition?