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Should college education be free?

President Obamas 2010 remarks on higher learner was, The single most important thing
we can do is to make sure weve got a world-class education system for everybody. That is a
prerequisite for prosperity. It is an obligation that we have for the next generation, (Secretary).
With such a strong and precise statement, it leaves me lost as to why there is a vast marginal
difference in the ethnical graduating rates in America. Education is a product and the bulk of
consumption is by White Americans. If indeed education is the prerequisite to prosperity why
isnt it free? We have acknowledged the necessity of a postsecondary institution, yet we have
failed to ensure this prerequisite is made available to all. Year after year Americas education
system shows its bias in graduating rate. Rates which seem to run parallel with Americas
economical imbalance. Here we will attempt to add to the conversation of unrestricted education,
education made available to all. We will visit multiple realms from each end of the spectrum in
search of an answer on weather higher education should indeed be free.
To acquire a better understanding of the conversation itself I first chose to look at how
other ordinary American citizens felt about the question. There I found multiple perspectives on
the issue. "It just isn't feasible. Someone will have to pay for the maintenance of campuses, the
salaries of professors, and several other factors. If tuition were to be eliminated, taxpayers would
most likely have to pay to fund these institutions, even further inhibiting the financial
productivity of taxpayers," Will wrote on New York Times blog (Gonchar 5). A valid positon I
thought. As Americans, our natural reaction when speaking about money is to first ask how a
change will affect us financially. Unaware of how federal and state funding worked I did a little
researching. The federal governments assistance is for the student themselves and the state pays
for the general operation of public institutions. With state contributing around fifteen percent less

than they did between the years of 1987-2012, the students has taken on that addition cost
(Initiative 2). With that in mind I stumbled across an article in The Atlantic where the author was
suggesting that not only could public college be free, but in the FY 2012 we over spent on
education. Based off the Department of Educations data $62.6 billion in tuition was collected
from students (state cost in tuition and fees) and $77 billion was issued in federal aid (work
study, Pell Grant, ect.) (Ginder 7). It appears, if state and local govt maintained their current
subsidizes for the up keeping of intuitions and the federal govt fully subsidized tuition, a free
education may be possible. Though the states may need addition assistance from the federal
govt it would be substantially less than what students, as a whole, are being required to borrow.
A state by state evaluation of additional funds needed could very well be the first step in the right
Continuing my search I considered what Cory, another blogger on New York Times,
touched on, College should be free because not everyone can afford it. You have a hard working
person with the dream to achieve but not the money to make it happen. So many people are in
depth just to get a education after k-12th grade. If all 18-24 year old were in college, we would
reduce the unemployment rate by 2 million people, and fewer people would be in need of
government assistance," (Gonchar). Immediately his statement struck a nerve. As I touched on
before, the mass consumption of postsecondary institutions is white Americans. As I list
graduates by race, take in consideration I have combined minorities (i.e African American,
Hispanic, and Asian/American Indian) to bring this substantial difference into perspective. In FY
2009-2010 (the most recent federal data available) degrees were dived out as followed:
Associates Degree: White- 66.3 %, combined other- 33.7%, Bachelors Degree: White- 72.9%,
combined other- 27.1%, Masters Degree: White- 72.8%, combined other 27.2% and Doctrines:

White- 74.3%, combined other- 25.7% (Statistics 1). After wrapping my mind around what is
obviously decades of the educational systems failures, I had to find out how someone could place
an argument against these statistics.
In an Education Next article I found author Andrew Kelly taking an exceptionally strong
stance against Presidents Obamas plan for tuition-free community college. He covered the
following points:
[most low- and middle-income students already pay no net tuition to attend community
college., free community college could lead students to undermatch , Washington
couldnt regulate community colleges to success,the combination of tuition caps and
direct public funding could actually lead to rationing, and free public option would
stifle innovation and competition (Kelly 1).]
He points out that most low and middle- income student are currently attending community
college for free and also receiving additional grants and scholarship aid to cover other cost. Even
with the ability to attend, the graduating rates are unpromisingly low at those institutions. He
proposes that:
[Simply throwing money for living expenses at students is unlikely to remove other
clear obstacles to success and may well exacerbate them. For instance, how would free
college improve student readiness? Federal data show that 68 percent of public two-year
college students have to take at least one remedial course; the average student who starts
at a two-year college takes 2.9 remedial courses. Very few of these students complete a
degree or certificate. Free college tuition wont fix American high schools, and

conditioning cash for living expenses on college attendance would likely draw in even
more students who are unprepared for college-level work (Kelly).]
With a proclamation like such, I am forced to revamp my line of questioning. Are American
students being properly prepared to receive a postsecondary education? If a free institution was
offered, are students equipped with the knowledge needed to attend? I am quickly learning that
the educational system is flawed at multiple levels. With more than half of public two- year
college attendants in need of a remedial course you have to question their previous educational
background. Where does the disconnect begin? But, before moving on, let me conclude his
The undermatch. This term is used to describe the concept of low-income students flooding
two-year colleges and essentially not graduating. It is said that enrolling in a college that is less
selective than they are academically qualified to attend reduces students chances of graduating
(Kelly). Kelly then states that Washington couldnt regulate community college success. To
ensure the proper functionality of these public institutions, the federal govt would have to build
guidelines and regulations that institutions would need to follow. Thereby, requiring the state to
build requirements for their local grade schools to adhere too. To implement a plan like such
could become very tedious, very quickly. But, in the long run could this improve graduation
rates, hence improving the economy? Lastly, he visits the idea that free public option would
stifle innovation and competition. To this statement I wonder to what degree competition will be
affected. And is more competition bad? Has Americas complaisance in its economic sector
begun to effect its ability to encounter new innovators and competitors?
As I questioned above, where does the disconnect begin? In school year 201314, the
adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) for public high schools rose to an all-time high of 82

percent. This indicates that approximately 4 out of 5 students graduated with a regular high
school diploma within 4 years of the first time they started 9th grade. Asian/Pacific Islander
students had the highest ACGR (89 percent), followed by White (87 percent), Hispanic (76
percent), Black (73 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (70 percent) students (N. C.
Statistics). So let me understand, the American education system has reached its all-time high,
yet it is incapable of producing postsecondary ready students. Minorities are indeed completing
high school at the same rate as white graduates, yet the marginal difference in college graduation
rates would lead you to assume different. Again I ask, where does the disconnect begin? With at
least 70 percent of all minorities graduating high school, how is less than 30 percent of them
combined bachelor degree recipients? The numbers just dont add up. Even with the public high
school system graduating 82 percent of their students, prepared or not, why arent more of these
students furthering their education?
Economics. The overall percentages of children who were living in poverty were higher
for Blacks (34 percent), American Indians/Alaska Native (33 percent), Hispanics (27 percent),
and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders (26 percent), than for children of two or more
races (18 percent), Asians (11 percent), and Whites (10 percent) (Aud). Poverty is a game
changer in the measurement of weather a student will be successful in school. Due to the
psychological stress of living in poverty, students health and working memory are negatively
affected. With all minority groups leading the way in poverty it is inevitable for them to fall short
in the academic arena. A fully subsidized education is only the icing on the cake. With evidence
that our academic turnout runs parallel to our economic turnout, you would think America would
attempt to stir the economical pot. But we dont. Instead we continue to dance around the real

issue. Economical division. Equality in the economy will render equality in our education

Works Cited
Aud, Susan. "Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups." 2010.
Ginder, Scott A. National Center for Education Statistics . December 2013.
http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2013/2013183.pdf. 3 June 2016.
Gonchar, Michael. The New York Times . 23 January 2016.
http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/23/should-a-college-education-befree/?_r=1. 3 June 2016.
Initiative, Fiscal Feralism. The PEW Charitable Trusts. 11 June 2015.
http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issuebriefs/2015/06/federal-and-state-funding-of-higher-education. 3 June 2016.
Kelly, Andrew P. "Tuition Is Not the Main Obstacle to Student Success." Article .
2016. http://educationnext.org/tuition-is-not-the-main-obstacle-to-studentsuccess-forum-community-college/.
Secretary, Office of the Press. The White House President Barack Obama. 09 August
2010. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/08/09/remarkspresident-higher-education-and-economy-university-texas-austin. 3 June
Statistics, National Center for Education and. "Degrees conferred by sex and race ."
Reference Table and Figures . 2012. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?
Statistics, National Center of Education. "Public High School Graduation Rates ."
Table . 2016. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_coi.asp.