Book Review: The Price of Civilization


When he wrote the book The Price of Civilization, Jeffrey Sachs argued that the cost of making education free in the US would range between 15 to 30 million dollars. Many have additionally argued that it is unrealistic to make schooling and especially that of college degree free to everyone (Samuels). The quotation cited by Sach could appear be a huge figure but a critical assessment makes one comprehend that it would be a measure that will ensure that the government saves money that it wasted in others sectors. In fact, the difficulty is thought-provoking from the fact that the government is already pending huge sums of cash on learning institutions with low graduation rates. It is indicated that only 30 percent of those who start college education make it to graduation, implying that people are losing money and time in the process (Taylor 33). It is important that college education is made free so that there is equity in access to education, improvement in the learning process, and ensure that the government meets its expenses in a cost-effective manner.

Reasons to Support Free College Education

Better Concentration Rates

One of the primary reasons to support the claim that college education should be free is that it will result in better concentration rates in the learning institutions. A majority of the students who enroll in college currently opt for part-time options because they have to balance the education with employment. A typical student in such a situation is required to make car payments, phone payments, and in most cases, the school fees (Buttari). College education is expensive in itself and adding extra costs including expenses on books makes it even worse for the student. The effect is that many face a straggle when trying to balance the two challenges, and often, attention will be on the employment part. In fact, respondents in a research to determine the level of attention in schools have reported that if college had dropped the cost of tuition, they would attend them (Buttari). It will mean that even those in employment will have a more stable focus on how they use their money as opposed to thinking how they will have to pay extra expenses on books and tuition fee, and in the process, there will be increased attention in schools.

Equal Access for Underprivileged Students

Making education free will also ensure that students who are raised in underprivileged backgrounds will get the chance to study. It is difficult to defend the subject of education being free without placing it in the context of fairness to all parties. There are many students in school all over the world who work hard every day in their learning institutions, but they never had the chance to get a degree. Many reports are cited where money has become a hindrance to the realization of success from education (Buttari). It should not be the case because it creates unfairness on the part of the less privileged when the other affluent students access all the resources they need. It is also expensive when the poor students opt for a loan because other than being less sufficient, there is a chance that it is expensive. The interest rates that are placed on such loans are unacceptable and unworthy of the less privileged considering their financial situation (Goldrick-Rab and Kelly 58). However, with the option of free education, there will be an equal opportunity for the poor students who can opt to work hard in college with the goal of earning a scholarship. The event will be that all students, regardless of one's financial and economic background, will have the chance to excel in higher learning.

Reduction in Social Classing

Furthermore, social classing will be reduced when there is free education in college and other learning institutions. Social classes have been a huge challenge in the present social context by creating a scenario where people are perceived differently. The lower social class has always been disadvantaged and suffered limited opportunities to achieve their dream (Joanna Goode 590). The outcome has been that they are exploited and denied opportunities not only within the educational sphere but in the context of other social settings such as hospitals. The effect has been a social environment where the poor are doubted by virtue of being from poor backgrounds, which often leads to discrimination (Buttari). It is common to hear reports of people who are doubted by their family members and friends because of being poor and which could affect someone's esteem to a great level. It will thus mean that by creating a free economy, the workforce will be more educated and more students attending college, making it difficult to identify the poor and the rich. It will imply that when there is a more educated workforce, foreign investors will perceive the countries as lucrative opportunities and not discriminate against them on the basis of their potential (Buttari). Overall, with the free education option, the social classes that define many countries will be rendered meaningless.


Making education free will make it cost-effective not only to the learner but the economy as a whole. Many cases of dropping out of college have been reported in the US, with students opting to end their education because of varied reasons. Among the key issues that are cited are the higher costs of learning in college, a problem that can be addressed by making it free for all (Goldrick-Rab and Kelly 56). It is reported that because of the high drop-out rate, the level of unemployment has increased significantly. Samuels noted that if all the 18-24-year-old had attended college, the level of unemployment would reduce by 2 million people in the US. It would also be cost-effective for the government because it will mean that fewer people will be dependent on support and aids. Furthermore, a federal program would fund higher education and in the process enable the states that are unable to meet the costs (Samuels). The outcome will be that there will be more free money that can be channeled to other sectors of the economy.

Focus on Research and Educational Improvement

Government intervention in education will also mean that there will be increased focus on research and educational improvement as opposed to raising money. It is an unfortunate trend that many private institutions today focus on making money as opposed to providing quality education. Through federal government making it free for students to access education, the outcome will be that there will be access and affordability, which will make it possible to focus on other issues (Goldrick-Rab and Kelly 55). It is thus anticipated that the quality of instruction will improve as the government will force schools to concentrate on using their funds for research and instruction (Samuels). In fact, the opportunity will enable the government to focus on the ranking of colleges and in the process ensure that the responsibility is shifted from the US News and World Report. The goal in instituting these measures will be to ensure that there are fewer damaging outcomes on higher education because it is reported that the US News and World Report has a corrosive effect on learning institutions from the biased reporting. Overall, the effect will be that schools will no longer spend on lavish amenities and institutions will be more motivated to focus their attention on productivity.


In summary, the process of making education free will ensure that the government makes learning equitable and affordable to all parties and further reduce the extra expenses that it incurs in other sectors. It has been noted that with such an advantage, students on the part-time basis will be more focused on their learning because many are forced to juggle both and will often compromise their education. It would also mean that those who are less privileged will get opportunities that the supposed more affluent get when accessing education. Moreover, it will mean that social classing will decline as it will be difficult to identify the poor and the rich, and hence no chance for discrimination. The government will also save a lot because the economy will improve when many people embrace learning. Finally, through the passing of free education, there will be more focus on the quality of learning as the institutions of higher learning will channel their funds on research and other productive ventures.

Works Cited

Buttari, Joseph. "Three Reasons Why Community Colleges Should Be Free." Odyssey (2016): n. pag. Web. Goldrick-Rab, Sara, and Andrew P. Kelly. "Should Community College Be Free?: Education next Talks with Sara Goldrick-Rab and Andrew Kelly." Education Next 2016: 54-60. Print. Joanna Goode. "Mind the Gap: The Digital Dimension of College Access." The Journal of Higher Education 81.5 (2010): 583-618. Web. Samuels, Bob. "Why All Public Higher Education Should Be Free." The Huffington Post (2011): n. pag. Web. Taylor, Paul. "Is College Worth It? College Presidents, Public Assess, Value, Quality, and Mission of Higher Education." Pew Social & Demographic Trends. Higher Education 3.202 (2017): 1-153. Web.

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