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Every year, millions of graduating high school students prepare to enter their first year at a community college or four-year university. The feelings of joy, nervousness, curiosity consume these young scholars’ minds. Despite these emotions, these students are unaware of that many will be filled with an inevitable and painful feeling by the end of the two or four years spent at college. Students are forced into a ton of inescapable debt which imposes second thoughts on whether ‘high quality’ education should be considered. Tuition at many colleges and university climb to such incredibly high prices every year. In fact, “Since 1990, the national tuition average at public four-year institutions has skyrocketed more than 160 percent after adjusting for inflation. At two-year institutions, the national tuition average has doubled on a real basis (Fillion, 2).” “According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017–2018 school year was $34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities (College data).” Clearly, this produces huge problems. How can an eighteen-year-old be expected to pay such outrages fees with a minimum wage job? The problem here seems to indicate that no initiatives in the development of a feasible solution to combat these excessive college tuition fees exist. “More than 8 million borrowers are currently in default on federal student loans. Nearly 42.4 million borrowers owe more than $1.4 trillion in total student loan debt (Rosen, 1).” That means that the average college graduate accrues $37,172 in student loan debt. These figures scare away potential future scientists, lawyer, doctors etc. Many students see these numbers at an early age, realize that paying for college is practically hopeless, and plan accordingly. Students are forced to find other paths to success without having to deal with the unbearable student loan debt that’s attached to it. Unfortunately, many top high school students stray away from the most competitive colleges and universities although many possess the intelligence and ability to do well. Usually, these undergraduates come from low-income households and discouragingly end up pursuing more modest, less-selective schools in lieu. People should equally have the opportunity to contribute their knowledge and skills regardless of the amount of money provided by family. Not only does education increase earning power, it also helps people understand the world. It promotes people to use brainpower to create and encourage innovation. These benefits provide enough reason why everyone should have a full education.   Everyone should be able to live the life that they want to and where an individual comes from shouldn’t determine how they will live the rest of their life. Students feel that they don’t have the freedom to choose.  They are dismally forced to choose a major that they’re not passionate about in order to insure a future that promises a higher salary. Also, less risk may be taken by these students in the future due to their incurred debt. High debt discourages people from spending money, starting business’, or letting go of jobs to find better opportunities. It is very stressful for a student to go from high school, where very minimal responsibilities were present, to college where responsibility is everything. Some pressure should be relieved so the students can focus on studies rather than worrying about where the funds for the next payment will come from.  Therefore, students can graduate on time and get ready to take on a productive role in society. Limited funds unfortunately mean limited opportunities in America. Furthermore, it is only fair that a bachelor’s degree is accessible to everyone because is I becoming increasingly difficult to land good a job without a B.A., or B.S.  Eliminating high college tuition would consequently student loan debt and all these other problems that come with it. More importantly, free college will not only positively affect students, the entire nation can capitalize from it. Many new jobs today require advanced knowledge and technical skills; providing more people with an equal opportunity will help fill the empty positions that are holding Americas economy from growing faster and technology from advancing. Free education would surely cause a ripple effect that would help boost the nation’s GDP Moreover, international trade demands countries to compete against one another, therefore educating and training the Americas workers is a major deciding factor of how well the country’s economy will do. Studies have shown that graduating with debt decreases the chances of becoming financially stable, consequently decreasing the likelihood of an individual purchasing a home or getting married and starting a family. These students are the future of America. As a matter of fact, Bernie Sander stated, “Our job — if we are smart — is to make it easier for people to get the education they need, not harder,” Sanders said. “The United States not so many years ago in terms of the percentage of young people who graduated college — we were number one. Today we are in eleventh place. … That is not a prescription for a strong American economy of the future. It is a prescription for failure, and together we are going to change that.” Educating the future of America can help promote better critical-thinking and decision making which in turn will lead to greater progress in the resolving of the greatest challenges faced today. It is quite clear that the U.S. government spends a considerable amount of money of on student aid. “The College Board reports that federal sending includes $47 billion in grants, $101 billion in loans and $20 billion in tax credits (Wiener, 1).” With that amount of money, some form of accommodation can be made to support more people that can’t pay for college. A member of the Campaign for Free College Tuition proposed a plan that calls for students who have a family income of less than 160,000 a year and are academically eligible being offered full college scholarships. Instead of giving away federal Pell grants and tuition tax credits, students that are eligible for college can go for free. If all 50 states agreed to fund the problems, it could cover about 9 million students saving students about $4000 a year. Not only is free college a suggestion, it is in fact a reality in many other countries. Countries that provide free college education include Estonia, Slovenia, Finland, the Slovak Republic, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Turkey, and Germany. Also, in some stats in the U.S, the push for free education is already gaining some steam. For example, Kalamazoo school district in Kalamazoo Michigan offers students the opportunity to attend any school within Michigan for no cost at all. Any student that continuously enrolled in the school program from kindergarten all the way to their successful completion of high school, is eligible to have their college tuition 100% paid off. Even students that have only been in the school system for a short amount of time can benefit; those students are allowed up to 65% of their tuition to paid off depending on how long they have attended any school Kalamazoo school district. It doesn’t end there; students are given 10 years to us the tuition money. This push by Kalamazoo School District has been proven to be successful, as “from 2006 to 2013, the percentage of KPS graduates who earned a college-level credential within six years of completing high school rose from roughly 36 percent to about 48 percent. And the impact has been the greatest on the district’s low-income students who have increased their probability of attending and completing a four-year college education by over 50 percent.” The opposition may argue that attempting to pay for every student’s education is an impractical task for the simple reason that it would be way too expensive for the federal government to achieve. These opponents believe that this would put a strain on the American economy as a result of the possible increased taxes that may come along with it.  Eliminating student loan debt is the first step, but it’s not the last. Once we ensure that student loan debt isn’t a barrier to going to college, we should reframe how we think about higher education. College shouldn’t just be debt free, it should be free. We all help pay for our local high schools and kindergartens. And all parents have the option of choosing public schools, even if they can afford private institutions. Free primary and secondary schooling is good for our economy, strengthens our democracy, and most importantly, is critical for our children’s health and future. Educating our kids is one of our community’s most important responsibilities, and it’s a right that every one of us enjoys. So why not extend public schooling to higher education as well? Some might object that average Americans should not have to pay for students from wealthy families to go to school. But certain things should be guaranteed to all Americans, poor or rich. It’s not a coincidence that some of the most important social programs in our government’s history have applied to all citizens, and not just to those struggling to make ends meet. Universal programs are usually stronger and more stable over the long term, and they’re less frequently targeted by budget cuts and partisan attacks. Public schools have stood the test of time so now it’s time that public colleges and universities do, too. The United States has long been committed to educating all its people, not only its elites. Those who oppose free public higher education roar that it would be a hardship on campuses, that it would mean more students and less money, that hundreds of faculty and staff would be fired. This is false. In Tennessee, which recently instituted free community college, they are busy hiring more faculty to teach the classes to all the new students thrilled about the opportunity to get a higher education. Georgia’s HOPE scholarships led to the dramatic expansion of small, commuter schools into major institutions, such as Georgia State University.  Affordability is a two-pronged problem: insufficient financial aid and soaring college costs. There should be a shared responsibility among all levels of policymakers to aid in improving affordability, most notably through increasing Pell Grant caps and the number of recipients. Pell Grants are federal grants targeted at students from low-income backgrounds. Pell Grants could previously cover over half of a student’s education, but over the past three decades, their purchasing power has sharply declined. Indeed, the percentage of college costs covered by Pell Grants has decreased from 67 percent in 1975–76 to 27 percent in 2012, according to the Pell Institute’s “Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States” 2016 report. In constant Consumer Price Index dollars, the maximum grant only increased by less than $1,000, or an 18 percent increase compared to average costs of college, which increased by 128 percent.  Cutting Pell Grants, which the Trump administration has proposed doing, would seriously disadvantage private colleges in recruiting low-income students, said Stella Flores, associate professor of higher education at New York University. In constant Consumer Price Index dollars, average college costs were 2.3 times higher in 2012–13 than in 1974–75, according to the “Indicators” report. As it is right now, low-income students find out too late how much they will have to pay for college and every college varies widely with little predictability. In the past two decades, more undergraduates have received financial aid in general across all institution types, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. But this aid tends to benefit students disproportionately to their need, revealing inequitable patterns and impediments to access for low-income students. In this country, it is universal programs that last and are protected, while discretionary programs like public higher education are routinely cut. Why do Social Security and Medicare survive while welfare is gutted? Why does universal K-12 education get much more funding, in state after state, while public higher education has seen massive cuts over the past generation? Those who denounce free higher education should recognize that they have gotten nowhere by repeating, over and over, that we need more resources. A growing list of unions and activist groups are embracing free higher education as a cause. Free higher education, and the public colleges and universities our nation deserves, is in our sights. Making college free would have one additional benefit: it would drive the for-profit schools out of business. They now enroll 13 percent of those currently attending American colleges, or 2 million students. A Senate Education Committee report in 2012 released by Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin provided “overwhelming documentation of exorbitant tuition, aggressive recruiting practices, abysmal student outcomes, taxpayer dollars spent on marketing and pocketed as profit, and regulatory evasion and manipulation. (Wiener, 2)” For profit colleges represent predatory capitalism at its worst. Instead of tightening regulations, as Obama has proposed, we could get rid of all for profit colleges except those that provide real job skills not available at public schools. Forgiving student debt has impressive popular backing: 1 million people signed a petition in support of the Student Loan Forgiveness Act in 2012, which was introduced by Michigan Democrat Hansen Clarke, with twenty-four co-sponsors. The benefits of student-loan forgiveness would extend well beyond the individuals involved. As Robert Applebaum of Student Nation writes, “Forgiving student loan debt would have an immediate stimulating effect on the economy.” Former students freed of debt payments would spend money; jobs would be created, and tax revenues would go up.  Consider the possibility of an income-based repayment system. For some former college students in the U.S., that is already a reality. They are able to have the repayment of their student loans tied to a small percentage of their incomes. And if they earn below a certain threshold, then they don’t have to make any payments. After 20 to 25 years, whatever is left on their loans is written off, as long as they have consistently kept up with all of the payments that were due. The problem, currently, is that this option is only available to low-income people who can prove that they are experiencing financial hardship. What if loans with income-based repayment were available to every student? You would be able to attend college, university, or trade school without having to pay for tuition while enrolled. Then, after leaving school, only an affordable percentage of an earned salary go to college. The more money earned, the quicker it would be to pay off the loan. If an individual’s income stayed low, people would have the peace of mind of knowing that loan obligations would eventually expire. That’s exactly the type of system that Australia uses through its Higher Education Loan Program (HELP). No interest is applied to the program’s student loans. And for those earning incomes above a reasonable threshold, the repayment percentage ranges from only four to eight percent, which is very affordable. On average, it takes just over eight years for an Australian graduate to repay a HELP loans. Of course, many loans will never be fully repaid, but the system has been designed to allow for that. With a system like HELP, college graduates have the freedom to take on lower-paying jobs while they get established. And it provides an incentive for aspiring artists, writers, musicians, philosophers, and other visionaries to pursue an education and develop their talents without worrying about the costs. After all, the world needs such people. Our future would be bleak without them. An income-based repayment system represents a compromise. Certainly, taxpayers would still have to help fund it since not all loans would be repaid. But the tax requirements would likely be much lower compared to what a tuition-free system would require. And such a system would also put some of the onus back on students. It would remove important obstacles to higher education without removing accountability or a sense of ownership.  

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