Point/Counterpoint: What should be done about college tuition?
Elizabeth Warren has made noise with her plan to make public-college tuition free and cancel existing student loan debt. Is she on the right track or has she placed too much emphasis on the need for a college degree?
April 29, 2019
Students need a plan like Warren’s for the future
The college-payment plan proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has two parts, so I’ll briefly address both of them.
First, the plan aims to make public college tuition-free. This idea sure sounds radical — especially in the United States, where we’ve slapped a market on everything — but it’s not crazy. It was at one point radical for any schools to be public, but today, it’s generally agreed upon that K-12 education is a good thing for the state to provide. (Yes, I know there are some people against public schools but that’s not the point).
A standard K-12 education isn’t cutting it anymore. For most of us, some sort of college is needed to be successful. And for most of us, it’s not affordable anymore. Average tuition has risen nearly 500 percent the rate of inflation since 1985, according to the website Inflation Data. The world needs more college students, but fewer can even think about going.
Do we need four-year college to be completely free as Warren proposes? Maybe not, but it’s definitely the direction in which we need to go. Perhaps it comes down to making two-year community college free and drastically cutting the price tag at four-year institutions.
The second part of Warren’s plan is debt cancellation. Basically, for those of us saddled with huge amounts of debt, our decades-long burden would be lifted.
If we’re so into markets and stimulating the economy, slashing student-loan debt would free up tons of capital. Don’t think of debt cancellation as just another lefty promise for new, free stuff. Think of it as a citizen bailout.
Now, do I expect either of these policies to be enacted? Not really — at least not in their current state. However, they are helpful for reframing the conversation around college costs and what kind of country we want to be. You don’t have to sign on for everything Warren says to know that at least some action is necessary for a better America.
Warren is distracting students with personal and fiscal irresponsibility
Student-debt cancellation, proposed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, has been among the most popular platform of Democratic candidates interviewed in last week’s CNN Democratic town hall.
And while students support this idea (the idea that they should not have to pay back the money they promised to pay back), we, as a nation, have lost sight of where the student-debt crisis originated in the first place.
Increasing enrollment in higher education has been cited as a reason for skyrocketing tuition. This is an easier area to tackle in regards to higher education, rather than federal and state funding, which have to maneuver around inflation costs in order to accomplish real work.
Many higher-education studies mention that baby boomers once paid their student debt off with earnings from summer jobs. Subsidies, such as the federal Pell Grant created in 1972 to support students with high financial need, now exist yet are still unable to sufficiently bring down the cost of college for many.
According to the U.S. Education Department, there were 5.1 million more students entering college in 2017 compared with 2000. With increased federal support to students, the more students who enter college, the more those dollars have to be spread around per student.
Candidates vying to attract younger voters should not lure them by promoting personal irresponsibility but rather by promoting trade and vocational schools, which are in need of workers and already funded by hefty numbers of scholarships.
Promising a free education from kindergarten to college would undoubtedly interest many students, but would also take them away from opportunities to earn more money with only a few years of training for a trade skill while saving taxpayer dollars. Telling all students that they deserve a free college education not only affects taxpayers but distracts individuals from professions that better suit them.