Millions of Americans across the country are currently enrolled in higher education and the vast majority are taking out federal and private loans to cover their ever-rising tuition rates. With Senator Bernie Sanders basing his run for presidency on the idea of free or reduced tuition for those whose families earn under a certain annual income in the past 2016 election; many were left to wonder, will this idea ever exist? The short answer is no- not during our generation.
While the idea of advocating free tuition to a national level is appealing, it is flawed. This would cost taxpayers a total of around $70 billion a year and would ironically hinder the same jobs and careers these students would be pursuing since cuts in other areas of government funding would be cut across infrastructure, transportation, and Medicare.
The reason as to why tuition rates have been increasing year after year has been due to government funding decreasing to go towards other programs, universities are then forced to pick up the slack by making up the difference with tuition rises. Tuition has increased in public four-year universities by nearly 400% since 1973.
Initial funding cuts from the government have been most evident since the 2008 recession hit. Since the recession more people reportedly earned less money due to the crash of the housing market, and in return fewer taxes went to individual states and cuts were made to you guessed it, education. Public universities dealt with the cuts by eliminating programs and moving staff to part-time or by letting them go all together.
With plunging amounts in funding more families are forced to put more and more into loans- this even furthers the gap and the reachability of first generation college students and their ability to secure a degree. This brings a full circle on the government and federal student aid as it was reported that more than 40% of students are defaulting on their loans, costing the government and private banks over $200 billion.
So to bring the cost of public universities down to nearly zero the government would have to either pull billions out of other programs like military (it won’t), social security (this would make life difficult for millions), or to demolish federal programs in their entirety like food stamps and section 8 housing vouchers to make up for the costs. A question that comes to mind when going over the FAFSA crisis and its direct relation to state aid as a whole, would a state lower tuition if the amount of aid offered to a student were to also be lowered?
This is also a tricky question that would heavily rely on other states following the lead of one that would actually implement the plan. For example, Tennessee introduced the Tennessee Promise last year that allowed students no cost schooling that was funded by the state’s lottery system. Tennessee may have a great idea and is actually delivering on it but again, funding the education of over 15 million students is going to cost a bit more than what a state’s lottery has to offer.
Free tuition is something that we as a country can look to developing for the next generation, but right now the resources just don’t exist to eliminate the loan debt for the current 50 million students. Instead of looking into lowering tuition as whole universities can actually look into investing that money so that there’s a 100% placement in the career they’re pursuing.
We should continue to express our distaste with the government on how their game of cat and mouse with education funding will not only immediately hurt the people taking out the loans, but will also affect the government in the long haul if tuition continues to rise and so do the number of people defueling on their federal student loans.