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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Light

Free College: Affordability Equals Success

The average college tuition in-state in the US is $20k a year, not including room & board. Without even inputting other expenses, the cost is already way too high for most average Americans. After four years of college, that racks up to over $80k. College in the United States is simply unsustainable for Americans. Luckily, free college may solve the issue!

Affordability for the Disadvantaged

Too many recent college graduates feel the weight of their student loan payments holding them back from fulfilling their full potential. This produces a significant opportunity gap.

While half of Americans from high-income families hold a bachelor's degree by age 25, just 1 in 10 people from low-income families attain that level of education.

However, by providing free community or technical college it will LIFT the crippling burden of student loans off of the backs of those who can’t possibly afford it. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administration (NASFA) stated, “of the 2,000 colleges examined, nearly half were affordable only to wealthy students from families with annual incomes ABOVE $160,000. Students from lower-income backgrounds could only afford 1-5 PERCENT of the colleges.” Clearly, this would lift up those who are unable to pay for college and allow them to receive an education that helps benefit their future. NASFA further found that “even after taking into account federal student loans, at least 70 percent of the colleges were unaffordable for lower-income students, both independent and dependent.”

Education should be viewed as an investment in the future, not a give-away program. Without a chance for higher education, many people in lower-income families or those stuck in poverty will NEVER be able to achieve higher education and a better future for their families, caged by the status quo in a vicious cycle of poverty. Tuition-free community college is not a question. It is a necessity.

Increase in Political Participation

With the US having one of the lowest turnout rates to elections, it has become a large problem. The more people in the US that receive higher education such as college and become more knowledgeable, the better. What college will do is expose people to ideas, theories, and thoughts that might otherwise never have reached them. They are more likely to become concerned about their community and interests due to influences around them. Therefore, this leads to increased political participation with voters who are informed and will make the choice they believe in the most. Educating the electorate is the surest way to increase motivation to turn out so that election results might better match the will of the people.

A Johns Hopkins University survey reveals that one-third of Americans can't name their governor and 80% can't name their state legislator. Roughly half don't even know whether they have a uni- or bicameral legislature. This major issue is occurring due to the lack of proper political education that most receive in college. Additionally, according to the Lumina Foundation, degree holders are 1.5 times MORE likely to consistently vote in elections!

Two crucial impacts will occur from widespread college education to the general public.

First, there will be more voting and political participation. The US has one of the lowest amounts of people voting in elections in the world, therefore, with more educated people in our population, there will be an increase in voting.

Second, because of this, the US will improve as a whole bc we will have better policy. The more informed our voters are, the more likely they are to vote in someone who represents their own interests and who will create a policy that benefits ALL Americans, instead of making an uneducated vote.

The Solution to the Skill Gap

Many higher level and higher-paying jobs won’t hire people with just a high school diploma, and it’s almost impossible to get jobs that pay a comfortable living wage without proper education. Given the costs of college education, very few people can afford the tuition without a high paying job. This has created a growing gap in middle-skill jobs. The standard definition of a middle-skills job—one requiring more than a high school diploma and less than a four-year college degree.

Employers cited the absence of technical skills (48%) and of the workplace as the most significant barriers to fulfilling their needs. This means that if community college and technical college is made more affordable, there would be more people attending college to receive the education they need to fill these jobs with proper training.

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