Should the United States offer free college education for everyone?Please provide SOURCES for both sides.   Thanks!

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This would be a great plan for the people who are sincere about earning an education but cannot afford the tuition. Having taught at the college level in a school that gave free tuition to freshman that had a 3.8 or higher grade point, it was a successful program because the students were highly motivated. The school kept a check on the progress of the students with a 93 % success.

There are a handful of colleges and universities that do not add tuition to students' bills, which can add up to major cost savings for those who qualify or who are willing to work in return for their education.

Some of the schools that do not charge tuition have strict eligibility guidelines. Most still charge room, board, and other fees, so they are not completely free, notes Pamela Rambo, founder of the education-focused Rambo Research and Consulting firm.

On the other hand, many times when something valuable is given to marginal students they do not appreciate or value it.  There would be a great many students who start school and then drop out because they were not prepared fthe rigors of a free college education.

I have a personal example of this.  A friend of mine works at a large, elite private university.  Because she works there, her grandson was able to go to the school free of charge, including tuition [$30,000 per year], board, and books. He was able to get into an exclusive program of photography and graphics programming. He would be able to go to this school free for four years.  After one semester he quit school because it was "stupid."  Of course, he was too immature to appreciate the wonderful opportunity that he was rejecting.

My point is that when the education is free, it may not be as valued as free tuition should be had the person had to borrow the money and/or work to pay his tuition. There are citizens who are opposed to free education. Through their taxes, poor families subsidize rich students who can easily afford to pay fees. 

Secondly, spending government money on free education  often takes away money from other needed aspects of society: hospitals, roads, public elementary and secondary education. University education is not for everyone.  There would be an influx of students who were marginal and certainly did not belong in the college setting. If college were free, many students would go just because they could, not because they appreciated or valued the opportunity.

A controversial topic that will need to be tried and monitored to see its true value.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you're speaking of university education with pre-professional or pre-academia or pre-science and -technology course emphases, then no, not everyone should have free higher education because the university and college as it has traditionally been known is not the best place for students interested other types of work experiences or careers.

If, on the other hand, you mean post-high school higher education for everyone in something, then I tend to agree: everyone in America deserves to be healthy (or at least cared for) and everyone deserves to be educated. And the tide is rapidly turning this way.

The main avenue of burgeoning "free" education is in the form college/university grants from endowments, so this generally excludes "government" from footing the bill.

Just some of the colleges and universities engaging in "no-loan" financial packages, following the 2001 originator of the program, Princeton University, are:

  • Vanderbilt, Yale, Wellesley, Washington and Lee, University of Chicago, Vassar, Tufts, Stanford, University of Maryland, MIT, Harvard, Duke, Dartmouth, Cornell, Columbia, Brown, Arizona State University, Amherst.
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No, and no many more times.

We give students in the US plenty of chances to get a free education as it is. They can get good grades and apply themselves more to get a GPA-based scholarship. They could do it through sports. They could join the ROTC. They can do it by committing to become teachers in a high risk area for a number of years. They can join the military and go back for a degree after a measly 4 years, if that.

Let's not forget that they can also apply for the Pell Grant PLUS any other state-wide help that they get. I know my former Georgia college students double dipped plenty with both federal and state aid that they got through the HOPE scholarship. Most of them drove much better vehicles than the Chancellor did! All of them, for sure, used their "hard earned" cash to buy all the tech toys that they brought to class just to distance themselves more from the lesson.

Nope, we already hand out enough free stuff without thinking about the consequences. And it looks to me like it is only going to get worse.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No, the United States decidedly does NOT need to provide free college education to the masses.  First, our country is already broke.  The national debt is more than sixteen trillion dollars, and we simply cannot continue in this 'government as Santa Claus' mindset.  While I firmly believe in the government providing aid to deserving students, the United States needs to slash spending dramatically, rather than dreaming up other ways to spend more money. The Federal government already does provide opportunities to deserving students through grants and loans, and for now, those programs will simply have to be enough until the U.S. government can solve the more pressing issue of our national debt crisis.

Furthermore, offering free college education would diminish the value of possessing a bachelor's degree.  Right now, a degree from a good university carries prestige and value, both of which might diminish if just anyone could attend for free.  If everybody had a college degree, then employees would start demanding a master's degree. 

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For the reasons elaborated on in the previous post, a decrease in cost of education would need to be accompanied by a rise in admission standards at some colleges and universities and a change in curriculum (i.e. more professional and technical training) at others. This, in any case, is how most countries that do offer free university education do it. In Denmark, for example, higher education includes several options, from academic to professional to technical degrees. Students choose their school based on the type of degree they want, rather than the "gen ed" approach taken by many American colleges and universities. All of these colleges are free to students., and the premise is that by providing more focused curricula, higher education is able to meet the needs of students who have more of a purpose in being there.  I'm not certain that charging tuition helps "weed out" students who might be less serious about education. I think it weeds out students who can't afford education.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think we do not tend to value things that are given to us, so I tend to oppose a free college education for all.  However, I would like to see a system wherein any student who is willing to perform a few years of some sort of national service, whether it be in the community or in the military, would be entitled to a "free" education at a university or vocational school.   Performing some sort of national service would delay education, to be sure, but it would provide valuable skills and experiences, a way of having something to apply learning to, and a period of time in which to mature.  I am not convinced that most people are ready for college at age 18.  I would not change any of the standards presently applicable for admission at any given school, which could mean that some students would not get the education they wanted, but most community colleges will admit any student, and from there, with good grades, it is usually a simple matter to transfer to a four-year school. 

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the link below there is an excellent article about various factors that contribute to this topic. My personal response is that one of America's founding principle's is that the government (people's tax dollars) should provide a free public education through the 12 grade for the improvement of young minds in order to create an educated populace. As a teacher in a public school, I completely understand and work to achieve this standard. On the other hand, I think that college education is not a right, but a privilege to be earned. States already contribute funds to institutions of higher education, but I don't think "free for all" is even feasible. Where are the billions of dollars going to come from? Free isn't free -- someone has to pay the costs. The student receiving the education needs to have "skin in the game."

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am going to say that the United States should not do this.  The major reason for this is that the laws of supply and demand would lead to major problems if a college education were completely free.

If a college education were free, many more people would pursue such an education.  Inevitably, many of the people going to college would be people who were not prepared for college or not committed to being serious about college.  (I realize this already happens to some degree, but it would happen more under a free system.)  Our system would be overwhelmed by demand from people who were not truly serious about college.

College should be made more affordable, but it should not be free.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I, too, have a hard time with the US offering free college education to everyone. As a high school teacher, many of my own students do not wish to be in the classroom (for one reason or another). They simply do not find, or understand, the importance of education. I would find it even more frustrating as a college professor to have the same type of students in a higher education environment. For that reason, I do not think that college educations should be free.

Outside of that, I believe that the prestige of possessing a college degree would drop.