Whether Public College Education Should Be Free in the USA Term Paper

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¶ … Public College Education Should Be Provided Free in the United States

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There are groups and organizations throughout the United States that believe that college education should be provided free-of-charge to all individuals wishing to attend college. One such supportive group is related by the Free Higher Ed Website of the South Carolina Labor Party and their campaign for free tuition at all public colleges and universities and states as the reason for needing free high education the fact that: "The average student graduates with $17,000 in debt from student loans; 39% graduates with debt loads that require more than 8% of their monthly income in repayments. In 1999/2000, 71% of students from families earning less than $20,000 per year graduated with debt, compared with 44% of students from families with more than $100,000 annual income. It is not surprising, therefore, that 86% of high school graduates from families with incomes over $80,750 go on to college while only 57% of graduates from families earning less than $33,000 do so. These dollar amounts do not account for the cost to those who avoid pursuing courses of study that appeal to their intellectual curiosities and interest because they fear not being able to earn enough to pay off their loans. Nor does it account for those who do not even consider attending college because of the cost. What would it cost to provide free higher education for everyone currently enrolled in public colleges and universities? The total cost of tuition and fees for everyone currently enrolled in public colleges and universities is approximately $25 billion. This is a sum that is easily manageable in current federal budgets. More than double that amount of money would be available to the federal treasury if only those corporate tax loopholes created between 1990 and 2000 were eliminated." (Free Higher Ed, 2004)

TOPIC: Term Paper on Whether Public College Education Should Be Free in the USA Assignment

The reason that college education has become so unaffordable is stated as: "Tuition costs have been rising faster than inflation and are projected to skyrocket in coming years. Due to cutbacks in state funding (the primary revenue source for public colleges), many public colleges are projecting tuition increases in the double digits and cuts in need-based financial aid programs. In general, public institutions cost less than private ones, but tuition and fees have increased nearly tenfold (in inflation-adjusted dollars) between 1969 and 1999. Average tuition and fees at public four-year institutions rose from $338 to $3,243 during that time. Private four-year college tuition now averages over $14,000 a year." (Higher Ed, 2007) Under this proposal there is stated to be no age limit "as the right to education should be life-long." (Higher Ed, 2007) Furthermore, both part-time and full-time students would be covered." (Higher Ed, 2007) There are stated to be several reasons for not including private universities in this proposal which includes: (1) Targeting public institutions covers 83% of all students now attending college; (2) Covering the remaining 17% in private schools would make the program nearly twice as expensive; and (3) the Labor Party has always supported public schools and if education is to be considered a right, it should be anchored in public institutions.


The plan for free college and universities in the state of South Carolina as stated by the Labor Party include modeling the campaign after the "G.I. Bill, which provided access to higher education for 8 million returning veterans after World War II. It paid all tuition and fees, as well as a living-wage stipend for all qualifying veterans. Its impact on the nation has been tremendous. More than 40% of veterans interviewed who attended college indicated that they wouldn't have been able to without the G.I. Bill. A subcommittee of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee estimated that the G.I. Bill returned $6.90 in revenue for every $1 spent on educating these veterans, based on the resulting increased income and productivity. This investment in education had much broader impact as well. The expansion of enrollments the G.I. Bill made possible stimulated construction of new facilities and institutions, increased demand for faculty and staff, and stimulated commercial development. The nation benefited from the veterans' talents and abilities that otherwise would not have been cultivated. That educational experience also provided the economic security and interest that made it possible for immediate beneficiaries' children and their children to pursue higher education. College and university life was broadened from the perspectives of a wider range of the American class and social spectrum." (Higher Ed, 2004) it is related that the City University of New York (CUNY) attempt in the 1970s to: "...deliver on the dream of free higher education" however, it is also related that: "As budget crises increased the pressure on states and municipalities, most of these types of institutions were forced to charge tuition and/or constantly escalate fees." (Higher Ed, 2004) This proposal concludes by stating: "...our nation did not always have universal access to high school. It was secured because people fought for it, in spite of dire warnings from opponents. In fact, many wealthy families in the early 1900s felt that resources would be wasted if high school were made available to the masses." (Higher Ed, 2004)

The work of Laura McClure (2002) entitled: "Higher Sights" relates that "The National Conference of Black Political Scientists has become the first academic professional organization to sign on to a Labor Party-led campaign for free higher public education. The campaign' statement of academics in support of free higher education is circulating among leading academics around the country." In March, the New Jersey Industrial Union Council and the California Nurses Association signed on." (McClure, 2002) McClure states: "Most people believe that a college education is a key to a good job for themselves and their children. But paying for it is getting harder and harder. Tuition and fees increased nearly tenfold (in inflation-adjusted dollars) between 1969 and 1999. Average tuition and fees at public four-year institutions rose from $338 to $3,243 during that time. Private four-year college tuition now averages over $14,000 a year." (2002) According to Joan Greenbaum, professor at the City University of New York's LaGuardia College and at the CUNY Grad Center: "...tuition at CUNY stabilized in the early 1990s following militant student protests against rising costs. Now, though, CUNY, once famous for providing free high-quality education for all New Yorkers, is increasing costs in 'stealth wars.' Tuition has just doubled for non-documented immigrants. Serving immigrants, she notes, is part of CUNY's original mission. And yet these hard-hit students face huge tuition increases just because, somewhere at the INS, the paperwork's not finished." (McClure, 2002) Furthermore, with all the lab and book fees when it is all added up five classes and their associated fees could be $500 per college semester.


Greenbaum states estimates that: "...about 90% of her students are working their way through school. Of those, a majority work up to 40 hours a week. And these are full-time students - so it's insane. We tell them that it's very hard to get an education and work full-time." (McClure, 2002) Greenbaum relates that: "...students take the only jobs usually available to them - low-paying ones with demanding bosses."They work in places like department stores, and in the busy season, they're asked to work extra. And somehow, the busy season always seems to correspond with exam time. it's a horror story every year. Many of our students work in warehouse jobs or at the airport. They might be scheduled to work 20 hours a week, but they end up working longer. The employer says, 'You've got to work extra hours tonight,' and they say, 'I can't - I've got a test tomorrow' - and then the employer says, 'You want the job, you work extra hours.' All this really affects their ability to plan their lives, take classes, prepare for their courses. They don't have the time for the kind of reflective thought that higher education demands." (McClure, 2002) According to Greenbaum "more students are forced to 'stop out,' They're not dropping out. They just have to stop for a semester or two until they get the money together." All education ceases until full tuition is paid. "Every semester, we never know until the last minute how many students are actually going to attend, because they can't be fully registered until they're fully paid. Sometimes I get attendance lists where half the people are missing because somebody hasn't come through with their piece of paperwork." (McClure, 2002)

McClure relates that while college education enrollment has "grown dramatically, there is evidence that rising tuition costs are preventing some people from attending at all: 'The total number of high school graduates headed for college rose only slightly if at all during the 1980s and 1990s according to a recent study by the Lumina Foundation. The growth in enrollment during that time is largely due to dramatic increases in part-time student… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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