Where Free Education Stands in the United States

Education

As the price of college continues to grow, so do the number of students worried about being able to complete college debt free. According to US News and World Report , in-state tuition fees increased 296% between the years of 1995 and 2015, and student debt currently exceeds $1.2 trillion.

High tuition fees and staggering student debt has students and politicians scrambling alike to find ways to combat this problem. One of the most popular solutions offered is free to do college. Although ideal for many, free higher education in the United States is a tricky business.

For tuition-free higher education in the country to occur, it will take Congress agreeing to a tax bill and financial transactions that will help make tuition-free education possible. Then each state must agree to participate and in doing so the states will have to donate more money to help fund higher education. This is where reluctance can occur as some states struggle to keep their own college aid funding afloat.

In 2015, President Obama proposed College Promise, a federal-state partnership program of America that calls for a federal investment of $79.7 billion over 10 years to provide two years of tuition-free community college tuition. First-time students will receive tuition waivers if they qualify for resident tuition, maintain a 2.0 GPA and enroll, at a minimum, as a part-time student. So far, it has only been presented to Congress and has been referred to the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.

Although no comprehensive efforts have been made at the national level, individual states continue to fight to make college affordable for their residents. America’s College Promise program was molded after individual states like Tennessee, Oregon, and Minnesota that have innovative tuition-free programs.

The Tennessee Promise program has been America’s College Promise’s biggest influencer. The program is a scholarship and mentorship program that serves as a “last dollar” scholarship, meaning it will cover tuition not covered by Pell Grants, Tennessee HOPE scholarships, or any other grants received. After the program was implemented in 2014, 90% of high school graduates applied for scholarships for the fall 2014 semester. To fund the program, Tennessee established an endowment fund, most of whose money came from the $300 million lottery reserve fund. The program currently serves more than 16,000 students and has increased public school enrollment by 30%.

The success of programs in states such as Tennessee, and the appeal of America’s College Promise program, has influenced other states to follow suit with identical “Promise” programs for students interested in beginning their higher education. in community colleges. Maryland, California, Washington and Hawaii all have similar programs in place for legislation. Despite continued efforts, opposition still remains from some who believe, for financial or other reasons, without higher education is not the best solution.

For the university to be free, critics say it will cost the government more than they are already spending on Pell grants, which is around $33.6 billion. In an op-ed for The Washington Post , Professors at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, Robert Archibald and David Feldman, argued that states with higher average tuition will benefit more from tuition-free college programs. States with higher average tuition spend significantly less on higher education per student. States that invest more per student, resulting in lower tuition, don’t see the same tax relief or aid and will be left to pick up the big tab.

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Others argue that a free university will create enrollment problems and lower quality education for colleges and universities. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Monica Herk, vice president of education research at the Committee for Economic Development, cites questionable retention rates and teaching quality at some community colleges as an issue that needs to be reviewed before implementing free tuition at these institutions. Herk argues that students, regardless of income, will enroll in community colleges to enjoy two years tuition-free, and the possibility of prison overcrowding will hurt less advantaged students, further hampering the

Critics also call for legislation focused on helping students who need it most instead of free tuition. Economists on a panel for NPR’s podcast “ Planet Money ” agreed that free higher education would benefit those who can still afford to attend college instead of those who can’t. blind,” said economist Eric Maskin, an economist at Harvard. “Many students can afford to pay a considerable amount of money for their higher education. There is no point in giving them a free ride.”

Free higher education became a popular topic of discussion again in 2016 during the presidential race. Senator Bernie Sanders was at the forefront of the conversation with free higher education at the top of his campaign promises, which won him the support of many young voters.

Sanders Free Higher Education proposal would eliminate tuition fees, lower interest rates on student loans from 4.7 percent to 2.3 percent, and allow people to refinance their loans. Sanders claimed the plan would cost the government $75 billion a year, but would be paid for by imposing a tax on Wall Street speculators.

After his defeat for the Democratic Party nomination, Sanders worked with Hillary Clinton to make free education part of his campaign. Under the Clinton campaign plan, tuition would be waived for working-class families earning less than $125,000 a year and community colleges would be free. She offered similar refinancing options for students with loans.

Donald Trump’s plan for higher education focuses more on college accessibility, not free higher education. Trump’s plan on the campaign trail was to pressure institutions with large endowments to invest in students and create lower tuition. Trump also proposed capping student loan repayments at 12.5% ​​and forgiving any remaining debt after 15 years in an effort to reduce student debt. Now in office, all eyes are now on President Trump and his plan to deliver on those campaign promises.

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The momentum to make free higher education a reality continues with individual states like New York and Rhode Island. Both states have launched plans that mirror those of the previously mentioned states to provide their residents with tuition-free opportunities. Their plans aim to go beyond just community colleges

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced a plan called the Excelsior Scholars Program, which will allow New York residents to attend college for free. Governor Cuomo’s plan differs from tuition-free programs in other states because his plan is not limited to two years tuition-free at community colleges and is not open to everyone. Students whose families or themselves earn less than $125,000 a year will be able to attend a four-year city or state university for free. If approved by the New York State Legislature, the plan will cost about $163 million per year and will be phased in over three years, hoping to begin in 2017.

Rhode Island also hopes to be a pioneer for the free university and become the first in the country to guarantee free higher education to all of its residents. Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo introduced a plan that will provide two years tuition-free to anyone who graduated from a high school in the state despite their income. The program, called the Rhode Island Promise Scholarship, will cover a student’s third and fourth year in a community college or their first two years at Rhode Island College or the University of Rhode Island. Governor Raimondo wants the proposal enshrined in state law to prevent the program from being affected by annual budget politics. The proposed program is said to cost less than 1% of the state budget.

On the west coast, San Franciscobecame the first city to offer all of its residents, regardless of income or enrollment status, a tuition-free community college. The City College of San Francisco hopes to begin the program for the fall 2017 semester. Free tuition will be available to all students enrolled in the college, but fees will not be covered. However, waivers for low-income students to help pay those fees are also part of the $5.4 million annual budget plan. The program was funded through a property tax on property worth over $5 million. The funding allows the school to cover all current students while allowing for a 20% increase in enrollment.

With a new administration in the White House, it’s hard to say how successful efforts to make higher education free will be at the national and state levels. But as long as the attempts of those who continue to defend free higher education remain, there is no doubt that plans to provide free higher education nationwide will continue to emerge.

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