Should Public College be Free?

College education has been the cornerstone of many great individuals in our society and all over the world, some were made by getting a college degree, others realized their dreams while attending college, whether directly or indirectly, the college has had one or two significant impacts on dreams actualization by certain individuals. Many have looked at the successes of Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates and said “they did not finish college to be that successful, but each of this people spent two years in college which made them realize what they needed to be. These are examples of people college had an indirect impact on their lives. Although they might have attended private colleges, Harvard University, one cannot underestimate the impact the college had on these two successful businessmen. In my essay, I am going to be supporting reasons why college education should be free while touching on some aspects of public college.

A public college is often used interchangeably with community college or public university; it is an institution that is publicly owned and funded by the government. It does not necessarily mean that it is free of tuition, it is less expensive than the privately owned colleges and offers a broader range of degrees. We, therefore, ask ourselves, why do we still want free public colleges when these colleges are supposedly sponsored by the government and have tuition subsidized. In truth, many of these public colleges leave their graduates with a much more bigger problem after graduation, as of 2010, students who graduated from college owed about 25000 dollars in student loans (Lewin). Furthermore, there are certain ethnic groups and race who are in need of acquiring a college degree but are unable to due to financial and economic constraints (Kanno & Varghese). The main issue affecting college education is its affordability, many students have the lofty ambition of attending colleges and becoming someone useful to their families and society, but without the means to do so, this leads to many of these creative and ambitious minds opting of pursuing a college education. This paper is going to highlight the importance of acquiring a college education both for the individual and society referencing the need to make public college free.

For the Individual

In an interview with the Chronicle, Bill Gates touched on the importance of college degree in meeting the requirements of employers. A man who has not finished college, he was asked about the importance of attaining a degree from free online courses, and he replied by saying “at the end of the day you have got to have something that employers believe in. Moreover, today what they believe in by and large are degrees” (Young, 3). In modern society, the absence of degree equals to no job, something strongly highlighted here by the world’s richest man. College education correlates with social and economic outcomes such as financial stability, family stability, health, and social strata (Hout). Many individuals want to raise their socio-economic status and evidence has shown that college education provides an opportunity to move up the ladder of social class and status (Hout). The call for free public education has been there right from the founding fathers of America, in a letter by John Adams to John Jebb in 1785, he stated that “the whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and must be willing to bear the expenses of it” (Founders online, para 6). Even in those times, people attended public schools for free due to the small percentage of Americans that attended college at the time, but as enrollment increased, each state required funding to meet up with the number of enrolling students, therefore, leading to the collection of tuition by the public colleges.

As stated earlier, the cost of attending public colleges nowadays is so high that students are unable to afford it leading to a reduced number of college attendees especially from low-income families regardless of the supply of financial aid by the federal government. It is a well-known fact that college education increases the chances of living the American dream especially to children born into low and moderate-income families. However, going to college is becoming increasingly expensive every year, according to statistics taken in 2012, about 10 million college students took student loans which is a 66 percent increase from previous decades (Goldrick-Rabb & Kendall). Furthermore, over 20 million students enrolled in American colleges (Carnevale, Nicole & Strohl, 3)  which shows the enthusiasm of the American youths to obtain a college degree, at least to be among the young adults that would earn 60 percent more with a Bachelor’s degree compared to their counterparts with just high school diploma (Carnevale, Nicole, & Strohl, 3). Free public education would give the opportunity for students from low and moderate income homes obtain a degree that would move the family up the social ladder.

Making public colleges free would ease the burden of student loans on the individual and his or her family. A student who has to worry about paying student loans would be unable to focus on his or her studies leading to spending a long time in the college and compounding the burden on his or herself and upon the family. Furthermore, graduating with huge amounts of debts to pay for student loans reduce the graduate’s chances of having a home, starting a family, and accumulating wealth. It could stagnate the upward mobility that a college degree is supposed to provide. College education would improve the technical skills and the ability of an individual making him or her relevant in society, this can be achieved if public college is made free, it would provide the freedom for graduates to contribute their ideas, talents, and pursue the lives they want to live without having to start with massive student loan debts. Free college education would reduce the student drop-out rate in the United States; many students are unable to complete payment of tuition for the four-year duration of their various programs. Many of these students start but are unable to finish, providing free tuition would cancel out this option of not graduating.

There would be job stability and job security with a college degree; college graduates are known to have low rates of unemployment compared to people with a high school diploma (Cuseo, Fecas, Thompson, 2), better retirement, and pension benefits without having to worry about student loans. With the advancement in technology leading to various job openings, college education allows career advancement, versatility, and mobility.

With a free college education, students would be able to decide the major they would want to be in. According to a report in the USA today, parents are cutting the cost before their children decide what college they want to attend or what major they want to study (Malcolm). This is either because they are worried about the amount of debt they could accrue in student loans and as a result, they steer their children towards “lucrative majors” that would be worth the return after graduation. This limits the student’s ability as he or she is not doing what they are capable of and this leads to so many unhappy college students, students that are interested in their majors through the aid of free college education would turn out to be useful graduates that would impact the society and its economy.

For the economy

In politics, Democrats and Republicans require an educated population to participate fully in political matters. When the people vote on issues and their representatives, having a college education would provide them with the necessary historical facts, the necessary details about how the system works, and the understanding of the social and economic issues that they need to make the right decision when it comes to placing their votes. Furthermore, a college provides a different exposure to people different from what they have been used to.

Making public college free would allow people to attain credentials required by employers providing an opportunity for people to take good-paying jobs that are unfilled, and as a result, billions of dollars would circulate around and boost the economy as many people tend to spend big when they are well-paid and not having to worry about debts. Moreover, this would increase the tax revenue generated by the government and further allow paying for free public colleges. Another economic advantage of free public college is the requirement of skilled personnel by modern day jobs. Many jobs nowadays require knowledge and advanced technical skills so much that there are not enough people qualified to fill these positions. College education would provide the skills necessary to fill these jobs, and as a result, there would be a more educated workforce and a boost in the economy. More jobs for people would mean less need for other public assistance and money spent on these could be used to fund public colleges further.

As mentioned in this paper, the major problem facing American college graduates is student loan debts, the average student graduates with about 30,000 dollars in student loan debt, with the country’s total amounting to 1.48 trillion dollars. This is a worrying amount for both the country and the individual, some of these debts are being paid throughout the lifetime of certain individuals, and some don’t even get to finish paying these debts until retirement. This inhibits the individual’s ability to buy houses, cars, and other items that could contribute to the country’s economy.

Student loan debt is the money owed on a loan that was taken to pay for college education expenses. The rapid rise in college tuition has made taking student loans the only option to pay for college. This is the debt incurred when students take loans to cover part of their tuition that cannot be paid by their parents, guardians or through scholarships. The debts can increase with curriculum price and textbooks which is one of the reasons why parents steer their children towards “practical” majors that would afford them the opportunity to repay these debts over time. Most students collect these loans and don’t eventually graduate, therefore accumulating debts they cannot pay for. For a public university undergraduate, the sum of attaining a four-year degree is about 50000 dollars (Livni), and that is for a state resident.

Some so many talented individuals graduate from high school, especially those from low-income families that are unable to attend colleges. These students might have been the best at their high schools but are unable to further their education due to lack of finances. These students could have contributed to economy advancements, scientific and medical breakthroughs as well as leadership in various fields. Free public college would grant the opportunities to these brains to develop the nation.

Another primary reason why public college should be free is bridging the gap between the low and high-income families. The increase in college costs reduces the college enrollment of low-income families more and widens the wage gap, and those that even make it to college are done with massive student loan debts that they are unable to live the life they would prefer. College education would reduce the unemployment rate in the country, and this could help reduce the crime rate. Unemployment drives the citizens towards crime in a bid to provide for themselves and their families; this would lead to more funds being put into security dampening the country’s economy, if a college education is free, it could steer citizens clear of crime and improve the economy as well. A college education would provide an individual knowledge of how to make wiser investments; this could serve as an extra source of revenue for the college graduate and more tax income for the government. According to Cuseo, Fecas, and Thompson (3), college education would reduce the rate of obesity, obesity has been known to be an essential health issue in the United States and globally, a college graduate would likely have the means to exercise more regularly which would minimize the likelihood of obesity benefitting the country’s health policy and funds.

In European countries, like Finland, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, and Sweden. They understand the role free college education plays in the development of their economy. Germany offers free college tuition to their citizens as well as international students. These students eventually become a world-renowned scientist, great medical doctors, and prominent researchers.

In conclusion, making public college free would not only impact the individual but would help the country’s economy as a whole. Students would no longer choose a major based on the money they are going to earn from it; rather they would choose based on passion. For example, prospective medical doctors would consider medical school because of their passion for caring for patients. The kind of doctors that would consider putting medicine first instead of earnings, ensuring they take part in non-profit jobs as well as work in rural areas. Furthermore, doctors would be able to provide stressless services to their patients because it is important to note that the cost of medical school takes a toll on the doctors. This also applies to other professionals who are rooted in student loan debts, of course, the degrees offer great earnings, evidence has shown that most of these professionals are not even able to afford a car let alone put a down payment for their houses. Lastly, free public college is achievable, there are various evidence to support it across the continent as seen in Europe, and some parts of South America. It requires just a certain level of commitment by the government and the realization of the positive impact it would have on the economy. Bernie Sanders, a United States politician, has tried to make inroads on delivering free public college education for all, and hopefully, this comes to fruition. Although there are limitations on all of these researches, one cannot take away the positives and strength it gives to the country’s citizens and economy.

Works Cited

Carnevale, Anthony P., Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl. Help wanted: Projections of job and education requirements through 2018. Lumina Foundation, 2010.Print

Cuseo, J., V. Fecas, and A. Thompson. “Thriving in college and beyond: Research-based strategies for academic success and personal development. Dubuque, IA: Kendall.” (2010). Web

Founders Online. From John Adams to John Jebb (1785). accessed on 12 November 2018 from 

Goldrick-Rab, Sara, and Nancy Kendall. “F2CO.” Retrieved from Google Scholar (2014). Web

Hout, Michael. “Social and economic returns to college education in the United States.” Annual Review of Sociology 38 (2012): 379-400. Print

Kanno, Yasuko, and Manka M. Varghese. “Immigrant and refugee ESL students’ challenges to accessing four-year college education: From language policy to educational policy.” Journal of Language, Identity, and Education 9.5 (2010): 310-328. Print

Lewin, Tamar. “College graduates’ debt burden grew, yet again, in 2010.” New York Times (2011): 469. Print

Livni, Ephrat. $1.5 trillion of Student Loan Debt Has Transformed the American Dream. Quartz (2018). Web. Accessed on 13 November 2018 from

Malcolm, Hadley. Picking college, major, comes down to money. USA Today (2013). Accessed on 13 November 2018 from

Young, Jeffrey R. “A conversation with Bill Gates about the future of higher education.” The Chronicle of Higher Education25 (2012). Print

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: April 19, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: April 19, 2021] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
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[Accessed: April 19, 2021]

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[Accessed: April 19, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: April 19, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: April 19, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

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