Dear Mr. or Mrs. President,
Before you took office, the subject of free post-secondary education was likely a large part of your presidential campaign, and with good reason: education is a more important part of our society than it has ever been. Now that you took office, you will need to act on the promises your campaign made. Depending on your political party, you will have different views and obligations to fulfill, but I urge you to step back and attempt to view the issue through the eyes of a student. College education is expensive, and capable students are sometimes unable to pursue a degree due to the cost of school. However, many, many more students gain the ability to procure a degree through Federal aid, scholarships, and grants; a college education is expensive but achievable. As a student myself, I urge you to consider the ramifications of a tuition-free higher education system in addition to any proposed benefits.
The largest barrier to free college degrees is the astronomical cost. In 2014, public universities alone charged $58 billion in tuition. This does not include room and board or supplies, which would increase this number drastically. “Currently, the federal government spends $31 billion on federal grants and work-study to all institutions, not just four-year public schools. So the cost of eliminating tuition would be around double that…” (NPR) This is not a tab that taxpayers should be obligated to pick up. Additionally, if the government agreed to subsidize university education, “Any public university president with an ounce of sense would simply raise annual tuition by $5,000 or $10,000 or more, secure in the knowledge that Uncle Sam would foot the bill.” (NYT) This means that the taxpayers would have an even greater burden. There is also the problem of the varied costs of a degree. Some institutions charge more than others, and thus would profit more from government money. To avoid this the subsidy would have to be a fixed amount, or, the federal government would need to regulate the price of college.
If the cost of an education was regulated, and universities had a definite paycheck as a student attended, what incentive would they have to ensure the student had a high quality education, or even obtained a degree? Colleges don’t bill students upon graduation, they charge on a yearly basis. Thus, the government could pay for a student’s education for several years and be stuck with the bill even if the student didn’t receive a degree. Making colleges more affordable, or even free would allow many more students to attend a university, but it would not ensure that any student would finish their education with a degree. “Forty percent of students who will begin work on a four-year college degree… will finish in four years. If you allow six years, the figure rises to 59 percent. For two-year degrees, the completion rate is 30 percent.” (WP) Therefore, should the federal government decide to subsidize university education, it would be pouring massive amounts of taxpayer money into pure speculation.
In conclusion, state-funded higher learning would be very difficult to fund, and there would be no assurances of completion. Thank you for your consideration on this very pressing subject.