The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Will Free College Really Help Anyone?
When I received that letter after I had finally paid off my student loans, it was even better than the day I graduated from college. When I finally decided to start college after being in the “real world” and working for several years, I was 22 years old and looking to further my education. I was stuck in a dead end job and could not imagine staying there for the rest of my life. I decided to go to a local community college that was affordable, with tuition costing just $1,500 per semester or $3,000 per year and $500 for the cost of books, which I easily found online for a cheaper price.
If we speak of local community colleges, which usually support freshman and sophomore years, which give young adults a chance to understand and figure out what they want to study, than it might be easy to argue for the case of college being free. Why not let the taxpayers pick up the bill for what is lacking in the high school education system: the ability to prepare children who are about to become adults for the real world.
Does that make you taxpayers mad? If you have children or attended high school yourself, you know your senior year was pretty much the most boring year of your high school career and instead of studying how to manage your finances, how to answer questions in a job interview, and how to actually market yourself as someone who should be hired, the high school you attended was probably too busy teaching you nothing that you remember.
That officially lets us know that the high school system is broken and needs to be fixed if the taxpayers have to fit the bill for an extra two years on the college level. That means children are now a burden on the system for at over 15 years of their lives. It sounds harsh, but before the 1980s, men were expected to go into the workforce and most had jobs before the time they were 18. Let’s face it: Those who are not working and contributing anything in taxes from their paycheck are technically a burden on the system. Straightforward and to the point. Some might disagree with me, but you can only carry someone on your back for a short time before you get tired.
When I completed my Associate’s Degree, I was not in any debt because it had been affordable enough for me to pay it off every semester. After I took out student loans to continue my education for a Bachelor’s Degree, two years later, when I graduated, I realized that debt was $40,000. I felt the burden and the pressure to pay it off. At around 7.6% interest on that much money, the bank was loving their investment, especially because I was paying my bill on time every month after I took advantage of the six month grace period.
This debt prompted me to get two jobs working 16 hours a day to pay it off faster, which it did, but the consequences for working two jobs meant the government was taking more from me than ever, and when I finally paid off my student loans after three years, I was hit by the IRS for $6,000. That meant that for at least another year, I would have debt from the government. “Welcome to the real world, now pay your way” was the message I got from studying at a University and from the government.
There was a satisfaction in paying off that student debt, though. It was my proud moment, a proud day for me, to say that I had officially been responsible enough to go to college, study, and get good enough grades to graduate, and finally, I was responsible enough to pay off all of my debt. The moment was magical and only then did I really feel like my education meant something.
When I was younger, my parents gave me the most important lesson in life, and they started that when they told me I had to do chores for money. While I certainly enjoyed presents at Christmas time and my birthday, every other day of the year, I was mostly on my own when it came to getting things. My parents could afford it, but they chose not to buy everything I wanted. Instead, they told me, “If you want it, you can work for it, make money, and then buy it.” After I bought it, it was all mine, owned by me, earned by me, and there was satisfaction in that.
That lesson taught me three things:
- Was the thing I wanted worth working for?
- Using my own money, I learned to appreciate it much more.
- After purchasing the item, was it worth it?
I am so grateful that my parents taught me such a valuable lesson in life. If you want something, you work for it, get the money to buy it, and you buy it. Once its yours, you own it, and there is pride in that simple fact. Ask anyone who has paid off their mortgage after 15 or 30 years or paid their car payments how it feels to own something and you will know exactly what I am talking about.
There are cases for why college education should or should not be free. Who fits the bill if college becomes free? Does this affect the salary of professors? What does that mean for companies who are looking to hire the “free college education” generation? In terms of college debt, there would be none, so companies now have the excuse to pay even less than the average $25,000 to $35,000 starting salary, which as most of you know, is hardly enough to pay your bills or raise a family. What valuable lessons would it teach the children who are in the “free college education” generation who already seem to have a sense of self-entitlement? How about a nice big slap in the face for all of the hundreds of thousands of people who have now graduated and paid off their student loans? Do they get paid anything or reimbursed for having to pay off their student loans? If everyone were to have a college education, what value would a college degree actually be worth when and if college becomes free?
It would seem that by not charging anyone for college and allowing anyone to go to college for free would actually devalue the college degree to a worthless piece of paper. Most college degrees are not worth what they charged you for them. If you have graduated from college and are working, you have already learned that it is you, as an individual, with your skills and talents, that make your degree worth anything.
Without you, the degree is worthless. Try and sell your degree to anyone. To them, it’s just a piece of paper. To you, it is four years of hard work, a lot of restless nights, some tears, and basically learning how to deal with four or five bosses all giving you a deadline on your tasks, while still working your day job, if you weren’t lucky enough not to work while in college.
What does “free college education” mean for all the students who landed in default? Will they be forgiven? “Free college education” might sound like a great idea and it may work, but college is and has always been a business. It will always remain business for making money. Why else would they have you purchase a new book every semester, despite the book having the same exact material every year, just so you can purchase that “unique code” so you can log on to a website to do one or two assignments? The price of tuition and books went up to an insane amount where no one can afford college without taking out student loans. The government, the university, and the bank all see dollar signs for every signature they receive. There is no “free” because that would mean no money for these three institutions who have made it their big business. The reason why going to college cost so much is because of the greed of the three institutions working together.
When something is offered for free, especially by the American government, there is a catch, and that should already be a red flag to the nation and taxpayers. When has the government ever offered anything for free? The government gets their money from the taxpayer. Nothing is ever free and is always at the expense of every American citizen who pays taxes. There will be a heavy price on a bill that is already past due by millions of Americans who have defaulted on their student loans. When candidates are promising free education while the country is trillions of dollars in debt, a dollar amount that no human being could even conceive, or has ever obtained individually, and it only means they have no idea what the true cost of “free education” means, and how we are simply digging our own economical graves far beyond our lifetimes.
The real cost of “free education” is that it will spoil a nation, undermine the education system, and drive us into a debt so bad that our economy will never recover. It will teach our children that no matter how much debt you get into, it’s fine and someone will bail you out. There is no repercussions or responsibility necessary for you to take on student loans. Furthermore, it also tells the older generations who were stuck paying off their student loans and maintained responsibility that what they did didn’t really matter.
Free education or not, every American taxpayer will still suffer. Don’t buy into the hype of “free education”. If you want free education, there are a multitude of online websites and courses offered for free. You can educate yourself. They may not carry the same accreditation as a costly institution, but as most of us learn once we graduate college: The college degree only helps to get your foot in the door. Everything else is up to your talents, skills, and personality, which are traits that college may help you to explore, but does not actually teach you.