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Free College Education: Right vs Privilege


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Free College Education: Right vs Privilege In one of his speeches, Leonard L. Boswell, a former U.S. Representative for Iowa's 3rd congressional district, quotes “The American Dream is one of success, home ownership, college education for one's children, and have a secure job to provide these and other goals” (Ersoy). Over the years, college tuition fees have increased immensely. Statistics show that the average in-state tuition fees at public four-year schools increased from $8,646 in 2012-13 to $8,893 in 2013-2014. In 2013-14, the percentage increase in tuition fee prices for out-of-state students was 3.1% which was slightly higher than that for state residents at public four-year institutions. There was an increase from $12,887 to $13,310. The $110 increase in average tuition and fees for full-time students in a public two-year colleges reflected a 3.5% increase from $3,154 in the years 2012-2013 to $3,264 in 2013-14. The $1,105 increase in average published tuition and fees for full-time students at private nonprofit four-year institutions reflected a 3.8% increase from $28,989 in 2012-13 to $30,094 in 2013-2014 (“Trends in Higher Education”). Furthermore, between the years 2001 to 2011, at least a third of states experienced funding cuts. During the recent recession in 2008, total public funding for higher education has declined by 14.6 percent (O'Shaughnessy). Consequently, the escalating cost of college tuition has threatened educational opportunities for prospective college students. Free college education has been an ongoing debate between families, students, and politicians. One of the key factors in the social and economic development of a country is education. There are different opinions on whether college education should be free or not. Many claim that education is a right and should be free while others claim that students who are committed to pursue college should burden the cost of their education so as not to limit the value of education. Availability of free education leads to proper development, training, and discovery of skills. In my point of view, college education is a right not a privilege, therefore, college education should be free. Education is a basic human right. On December 16, 1966, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a multilateral treaty under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It is committed working towards granting economic, social, and cultural rights that include the right to education (“International Covenant, 1996). Regardless of an individual's social status, the government is accountable to meet its goals of providing education to its constituents. President Barack Obama emphasizes “Change is a country where every American has a shot at a great education -- where we recruit new teachers, train new workers, bring down tuition, so that no one in this country is forced to give up the dream of a college education” (Stob and Medhurst). The increasing cost of college education does not only affect low-income families but also median families that are experiencing the pinch of escalating costs. The government provides several options to finance an education such as grants, scholarships, student loans, and financial aids. However, not everyone is qualified to avail of these options. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates that in 2012 a total of 39 million people owed a total of $966 billion in student-loan debt, for an average balance of nearly $25,000, 40% of borrowers in 2012 owed less than $10,000, and almost 30% owed between $10,000 and $25,000. 18% owed between $25,000 and $50,000, while the remaining 13% or so owed more than $50,000. Towards 2012, only 39% of borrowers were able to reduce their outstanding loans. Some are delinquent, others are currently in school and are not required to make payments, and the rest is in a deferral or forbearance program (Desilver). Given these statistics, a college graduate student is in deep debt even before he actually starts earning from his job. Prospective college students lose interest in pursuing their degrees since they will owe a lot of money. Free college education helps students worry-free. As the breadwinner in the family, I cannot afford to pay for college. However, it is my dream to achieve a Nursing degree. Since I was qualified for scholarships and grants, it helped me to get through every semester. I do not have to worry about funding for my school tuition fees and textbooks. Unfortunately, not everyone is given a chance to have the same benefits as mine. Students that avail of loans or financial aids may be required to have co-signers. However, granting of loans to co-signers take into consideration several factors to prove ability to pay such as : credit history, debt to equity ratio, and income. In most cases, not all co-signers or parents are qualified, therefore, closing the doors of opportunity to get a college education. The requirements and the qualifications for these loans discourage parents and students to get a college degree. Nevertheless, by having an option for free college education, students will be given a chance to pursue their degree without necessity for funding. Availability of free education to students will lead to proper development, training, and discovery of skills. Free college education leads to development. On July 18, 2011, President Obama hosted an education roundtable composing of leaders in different sectors to ensure a competitive workforce. President Obama points out “ A world-class education is the single most important factor in determining not just whether our kids can compete for the best jobs, but whether America can out-compete countries” (Mechaber). Education creates a skilled and competitive workforce. Consequently, this will attract more foreign investors, which leads to economic and social prosperity. Pursuing a degree in college is an investment. Due to changes in technology, skilled graduates is a necessity. Most businesses prefer, highly skilled graduates rather than high school graduates., This insures high quality productivity and gain more profit. College education does not only help develop technical skills, but exercises critical thinking skills such as questioning, analyzing, synthesizing, and acquiring new knowledge (“Should College be Free”). When more students are given the opportunity to have free education, the market and the economy benefits from the skills contributed by the college graduates. One of the major impacts of the high cost of education is scarcity with primary care physicians or PCPs. Many students aspire to become doctors . Nowadays, when one visits the hospital, they will notice the diversity of the doctors. Most of these doctors took their medical degree in their home countries and eventually migrated here in America. Unfortunately, prospective students drop off from their medical school since they cannot afford the costs. Based on the American Association of Medical Colleges October 2013 Fact Card, 79% of medical school graduates reported education debt of more than $100,000, 62% owe $150,000 or more, 34% owe $200,000 or more, 14% owe $250,000 or more, and 5% owe $300,000 or more (Pratini). Based on this data, pursuing an education for a primary care physician does not compensate the medical school debt accumulated. Consequently, by providing free medical degree education to qualified students, extinction of our doctors and primary care physicians will never be a problem. Free college education leads to higher and better economic well-being. In 2008, college graduates earned $22,000 more yearly than those who attained a high school diploma, . This transforms to an average annual salary of $55,700 for college grads as compared to $33,800 for high school graduates (Kyle). In a recent poll conducted by the Survey of Consumer Finances, a college degree holder and head of the household that does not have any student loans incur seven times the net worth of households headed by a college degree holder with an outstanding student loan (Fry). Furthermore, college degree holder as head of the household has a lower net worth. The typical household income of college-educated student debtors is nearly twice that of households whose heads do not have a bachelor’s degree (Fry). Studies reveal that those who have student loans are not satisfied with their financial standing as compared to those who did not avail of student loans. Student loan debt has a significant impact on the lives and spending habits of Americans. Consequently, student loans impact the lifestyle decisions of its borrowers. A recent survey conducted by the American Student Assistance (ASA) reported that those with outstanding student loans have to set aside their decisions to have a family, purchase a home, or get a newer vehicle. This delay provides a negative impact on the economy for this generation, the future investors, is all tied up with indebtedness. Based on the ASA survey on the effects of student loans on their well-being, 27% of respondent's claimed they cannot provide for their daily necessities, 63% claimed it affects their ability to make major purchases, 73% claimed they had to delay

investing for their retirement and the majority of 75% claimed they had to delay their

goal of buying a home. (“Life Delayed,” 2). Not only does having an existing student

loan affect one's economic being but also making major decisions in their lives. 30% of the respondents admitted that having an outstanding student loan had an impact on their career field. 47% claimed that it affects their decision to start their small business and become entrepreneurs, 29% had to delay their wedding plans, and 43% had to delay their plans to start a family. One respondent warns that “Upon graduation you realize that you can’t really begin the life you imagined having after college.” (“Life Delayed,” 4). Many fresh graduates needed to find a job rather than starting a career primarily to start paying off their loans and avoid higher interests. This is evident as the majority of them are not selective about the jobs they apply for or trapped in their respective jobs to be able to sustain their payments and avoid escalating interest rates. Student loan borrowers avoid the housing market, which primarily affects our economy. In a study by The New York Federal Reserve, for the first time since the implementation of student loans, “30 year-old with no history of student loans are more likely to have home-secured debt than those with a history of student loans” (Quirk), It can also be noted in the increase of purchases of newer vehicles but evidently they are categorized under the debt-funded purchases. Some borrowers use their student loans to get new vehicles and sometimes results to delinquencies, which then affects their credit scores. Student loans are contributory factors for borrowers to set aside their marriage or family life. Nowadays, financial stability is an important core before marrying or starting a family. College educated women prefer to have children later in their lives, possibly at 30 years old or older. A 2002 survey that 21% of student loan borrowers delayed having children specifically because of their student debt. ASA’s survey shows that today that number may be closer to 41% (“Life Delayed”, 9). Nevertheless, providing free education leads to a healthier lifestyle, increase in purchasing power, wiser choices made for a career path, increase employment in the public sector, and most of all energizes our economy. In my previous statements, I mentioned that I was lucky to have grants and scholarships. As I am tempted to avail of student loans, I chose not to. Being debt-free from student loans gave me the opportunity to purchase a newer vehicle without worrying for monthly car payments and paying student loan interests. I am able to enjoy my disposable income by spending it on vacations after the school semester ends. I do not have to stress out about the next coming months or after I graduate on how I will pay student loans. Zero student loans give me peace of mind and higher purchasing power. In conclusion, college education should be free. Well-educated citizens sustain the country's democracy and shape its landscape. Free college education will create a more competitive workforce. Restricting access to education will dampen the economy and marketplace and will hinder an individual from realizing the American dream.

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