Training is the only way to secure a stable career in the United States. It is regarded as a primary cornerstone needed to realize the American dream. A basic tenet of the vision is universal access to education for all students in order to empower communities on both a social and economic level (Baum & Payea, 2010). However, owing to the financial barriers that prospective students face in obtaining a degree, this escalator to achievement is becoming more accessible by the day.
According to a survey conducted by the Organization for International Cooperation and Development OECD (2017), the United States ranked fifth in terms of the number of people with college degrees. The findings of the research also suggested that it is 12th position in the K-12 education system. Despite the fact that the results from the ranking are tolerable, it is clear that the U.S. could perform better if the education system, more so the higher education, were free. OECD (2017) suggests that the government spending on Universities has dropped significantly since 2008. The result is that most of these universities have been forced to raise the tuition fees, lay off their staff and faculty, and remove some courses from the curriculum. The essay aims to discuss the benefits of free education such as creating equal opportunities and the numerous personal and social benefits that come with going through college and University education and the possible downsides of free education systems.
Higher education should be free to ensure that individuals have equal opportunities. There is a strong argument that suggests that free education can provide a more level ground for students who are interested in pursuing higher education (Chabbott, 2013). The thought of students having to pay back student loans, or working part-time to get a source of income alone is sufficient to dissuade them from joining the universities. A study conducted by Digest of Educational Statistics (2012) shows that most people who come from poor backgrounds tend to enter the job market earlier. That marks the beginning of unfortunate life events, since the average income of an individual with a high school diploma is $25,000 annually, as compared to their counterparts with bachelor’s degree who earn an average of $56, 000 (Synder & Dillow, 2012). Economists from Harvard argue that in a work time of individuals, there is approximately 70% of wage inequality occurs depending on the highest level of education, while those who are disadvantaged are those whose reach high school. Apart from that, most employers prefer to hire people with at least a college degree. By creating a free education system, there would be a level ground and equal opportunities for each.
Free education is essential for economic growth and stability of a nation. A large population having attended through college and university is necessary for national development as it enhances and strengthens economic competitiveness (Hout, 2012). That is why many economists commonly agree that there is a direct relationship between education and economic growth. In addition to that, higher education levels can increase labor competitiveness in the external markets, and therefore it is essential to control the world markets effectively.
The quality and accessibility of higher quality education have implications for a country’s economy. The more the number of citizens educated in a country, the stronger their economy becomes. Therefore, by making education free, there will be a substantial personal and national economic growth and stability, and consequently, the country will perform better in the external market rankings, which even enables them to have access to better markets.
Access to High levels of education has several practical benefits to society. The benefits one gets from higher education goes beyond having better career prospects. It has several practical benefits that are essential in the day to day life such as better health and civic involvement (Lochner, 2011).
People who have access to post-high school education tend to make better health choices as compared to those who did not get past high schools. A survey conducted on 2012 revealed that 8% of degree holders smoked compared to 25% of those with just high school education (Andersen, 2017). Additionally, bachelor degree holders were twice more likely to do regular exercise and keep fit than those without a university education. More people should be given a chance to attend higher education by making it free since their interactions with other people help them to learn better practices for living a healthy life. By being health conscious, the likely hood of a population developing lifestyle diseases decreases considerably, and therefore the government will spend less on lifestyle diseases which are easily preventable, and channel the funds to life-threatening diseases such as cancer (Brand & Xie, 2010). In addition to that, the productivity of a workforce largely depends on its health. Therefore, by maintaining better health of its citizens by granting access to higher education will contribute to economic development in the long run
College and University education creates a suitable environment for the students to become aware of their civic rights and responsibilities. According to a study as documented by Baum, Ma, and Payea (2010) to establish the political awareness in Arizona State, the findings showed that 45% of bachelor’s holder was aware of the current political situation, while only 21% of the high-school graduates were politically aware. The findings also suggested that those who had completed college or University education were more likely to participate in the voting exercise in the country. It is sad to point out that some of the participants firmly believed that their participation in voting did not improve their lives, and therefore they did not see its need (Baum et al., 2010). Taking part in the election is a civic right and responsibility that all citizens should participate, to elect leaders with developmental policies that will benefit all its electorates. However, those who did not have a privilege of attending post-secondary education may have a completely different attitude towards politics.
Access to higher education provides a perfect opportunity for self-development, which can ensure the individuals become all rounded and live fulfilling lives. These include developing better communication skills, sharpening their critical thinking skills, a greater sense of discipline, responsibility, and an excellent avenue to identify skills, talents, and passions (Carter, 2013).
Higher education improves both written and verbal communication skills of a person. Hout (2012) documents that communication is considered more important than math or science knowledge, and it determines the ease with which one can interact in society. Attending the lectures sharpens the student’s listening skills. In addition to that, the students learn to write research papers, essays, and reports where one is required to communicate in writing and drawings. The skill is invaluable in day to day life as it enables the graduates to interact with others efficiently.
Access to education enables individuals to sharpen their critical thinking skills. Institute of higher learning teaches students to reflect and analyze different situations accordingly. Critical solving abilities are developed in the higher education primarily through studying the philosophical frameworks. It benefits an individual as one learns to see the societal problems through different perspectives and choose the best course of action. Therefore by increasing the intake to higher education, there will be more people who will be better equipped to solve problems in the society.
Students in higher education are trained to be disciplined through learning to sharpen time management skills. In these institutions, students are given many responsibilities that they have to manage. Often, students have to take the initiative to plan their day such that all the tasks assigned are completed on time. The sense of responsibility and accountability is essential in the real world, where there are no timetables or a bell (Hout, 2012). Consequently, students who completed higher education have a higher probability of being successful in life if they can apply these skills in their activities.
Colleges and university create exposure which can be essential to identify talents, gifts, and passions. Exposure to a new environment is a stimulus for many young people to discover their strengths and weaknesses. By joining different clubs and societies, one can also develop learned skills such as art, dancing, playing a sport and many others. The advantage of the exposure is that it broadens the students’ prospects and can open many opportunities such as for self-employment, and even create jobs for fellow youths.
Disadvantages of Free Education System
Despite the fact that increasing the objective of the free education system is to increase the enrollment, especially those who have financial challenges, it can pose a major problem. As more students are enrolled in the colleges and universities, the fund allocation to these schools will have to increase(Andersen, 2017). That means that taxes reserved for education purposes would have to go up. If not, the government will have to divert some of its funds from other departments such as military to go to educational advancement. An increase in taxes is something that is frowned upon, especially during the tough economic times which reduces the prospects for free education.
Apart from that, Andersen (2017) argument that providing free higher education will create equality in the job market could be a flawed idea. If education is made free without adjusting the current economic frameworks, the number of graduates may saturate the market with time. Consequently, there will be many graduate students without jobs. Therefore for citizens to get maximum benefit from free education, the government should first work on its economic and industrial growth rate to ensure that the increasing graduates will be absorbed into the job market.
Any discussion about funding education for the public good is unavoidable; not even limited resources can be given as a valid excuse. Despite this being a common argument that many people would give in matters relating academia, an excellent question to ask is where do the funds to support several vanity projects such as constructing stadia to host world cup? This justification is based on the conservative economic thinking that is clearly against the public good. However, the social and economic benefits that citizens can gain from free education justify the need for free and accessible education.
Andersen, E. (2017). Pros and Cons of Tuition-Free College – College Raptor Blog. College Raptor Blog. Retrieved 2 December 2017, from https://www.collegeraptor.com/find-colleges/articles/affordability-college-cost/pros-cons-tuition-free-college/
Baum, S., Ma, J., & Payea, K. (2010). Education Pays, 2010: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society. Trends in Higher Education Series. College Board Advocacy & Policy Center.
Brand, J. E., & Xie, Y. (2010). Who benefits most from college? Evidence for negative selection in heterogeneous economic returns to higher education. American sociological review, 75(2), 273-302.
Carter, P. L., & Welner, K. G. (Eds.). (2013). Closing the opportunity gap: What America must do to give every child an even chance. Oxford University Press.
Chabbott, C. (2013). Constructing education for development: International organizations and education for all. Routledge.
Education at a Glance 2017 – OECD Indicators – en – OECD. (2017). Oecd.org. Retrieved 2 December 2017, from http://www.oecd.org/edu/education-at-a-glance-19991487.htm
Hout, M. (2012). Social and economic returns to college education in the United States. Annual Review of Sociology, 38, 379-400.
Lochner, L. (2011). Non-production benefits of education: Crime, health, and good citizenship (No. w16722). National Bureau of Economic Research.
Snyder, T. D., & Dillow, S. A. (2012). Digest of education statistics 2011. National Center for Education Statistics.