4 Reasons College Should be Free

College should be free. A degree is so widely touted as necessary for a successful life, yet it can be wildly overpriced and unattainable. Here are four reasons why higher education should be free.

Value has decreased

First, the value of a college degree is no longer there. The cost of tuition alone has increased many times over in the last thirty years. For example, the four-year cost to attend Harvard University has increased at least 73% from 1987 to 2016. State schools have increased even more. Tuition and fees at Florida State University increased 106% over the same period.

Conversely, starting salaries for bachelor-degree holders are barely inching up comparatively. Wages have increased by 2 to 3% over the past five years. A study concluded that tuition rates are growing almost eight times as fast as labor rates. Another study states that the average annual growth rate for salaries is 6.21% since 1960.

Increase Accessibility

Second, a free degree would be feasible for everyone, no matter the socioeconomic circumstances. The cost of a degree is a considerable barrier to entry for minorities and those in low-income areas. Need-based scholarships and grants may not cover the staggering fees associated with an undergraduate degree without the addition of student loans. Those loans then put a precarious financial situation into potential destruction before graduation, which leads me to my next point.

Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt is crippling the workforce and affecting other industries. The total balance of all the student loans in America is over $1.5 trillion and is second only to mortgage debt. If college were free, that is $1.5 trillion that could be saved, used to start businesses, invested in the stock market, spent on consumer goods, or poured into real estate. A survey of millennials stated more than a quarter of them are waiting to get married or have kids because of their student loans.

Endowments

Schools have humongous endowments that aren’t being used to help the students. At the end of 2016, the total of university endowments in the United States totaled over $550 billion. Those endowments are steadily growing due to investments and ongoing donations but are making minimal payouts. The way the legal restrictions and guidelines for contributions were created seem to only benefit the schools.

Free College Programs

Thankfully, there are already programs in place to offer free college in many states. The City University of New York (CUNY) City College cost 554% more in 2016 than it did in 1987. However, the CUNY and State University of New York are phasing in the Excelsior Scholarship for families making under $125,000 a year. The funds cover up to four years of last-dollar assistance toward tuition. It will cover fees after other scholarships and grants. By 2020, almost one million families will qualify for the award. There are at least a dozen other states and counting that have enacted similar programs at the community college level, called the College Promise Campaign.

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