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Just Listen For A Second: College Education

December 23, 2018

College education: an essential right

For a long time, I had a preconceived notion of what constituted a “real” college. I regarded community colleges and similar schools as an education intended for neglectful students, something that was beneath me.
Everything changed when I attended my brother’s graduation from Renton Technical College.
At the beginning of the ceremony, the speaker asked for all of the graduates who held a job while attending the college to stand up. Then, he asked for all of the people for whom English was a second language. Then all of the parents. Finally, the speaker asked for all of the graduates to stand up who were first-generation college students. Nearly everyone was standing.
Children were cheering on their mothers from the stadium seats, and fathers were speaking about how they intended to show their children the importance of college. At this ceremony, I realized that this education—although not provided at a four-year university—is real, is meaningful, and is something everything should have access to, no matter their financial circumstances.
Yet, even with the primarily low cost of Renton Tech, not everyone can afford the tuition or time required to earn a degree. However, because success is so closely correlated with a college education in the United States, many people are willing to make both financial and familial sacrifices to graduate—but these sacrifices should not be required to earn a higher degree.
If the government provides tuition-free college, these sacrifices would be eliminated, and everyone would have the option to earn a degree. And, contrary to some concerns of augmented taxes, more people would benefit than just graduates.
Economically, people with a college degree earn a larger salary, subsequently allowing for them to contribute to the local economy in greater ways. Moreover, tuition-free college would eliminate the crippling amount of student debt that currently prohibits college graduates from immediate success. Instead of moving back in with their parents, graduates would have the opportunity to buy a home and invest in the community earlier than normal.
No money would be lost in providing tuition-free college—in fact, more than just the economy would benefit: a higher degree also allows for people to contribute to society with their newly acquired skills and knowledge.
Even simply providing tuition-free community college would make a difference in the lives of numerous people, just like the graduates of Renton Tech. And with all of the benefits it would give society, the economy, and the graduates, there is no reason something as essential as a college education should be a privilege of the wealthy.

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A want, not a need

For as long as I can remember going to college has been something that I was expected to do. My parents went to college, as did many of my aunts and uncles. I saw several cousins go to college, followed by my sister. The question was always “Where will you go?” not “Will you go?” I do plan to go to college; it seems to be the right path for me.
However, college it is not for everyone. Many people are better off going to trade schools or apprenticeships. We shouldn’t be coercing people to go to college by making it free or required. College is something you can do if you so desire, not an inherent right for everyone, such as food or water. Trying to make college “free” for everyone is a waste of our government’s money, and Americans’ money. Nothing is ever truly free: someone is always paying for it.
Free college would mean either raising taxes or cutting funding from other programs. Both of these could be worth it if getting every single person a college degree was valuable. But that’s not always the case.
A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed that only 27.1 percent of college graduates are in a job that is related to their major. For many people, the years of college and tens of thousands of dollars were wasted. We cannot ask the average taxpayer to shell out more of their paycheck to pay for someone’s college education that they will not use.
Many proponents of free college will say that jobs requiring a college degree pay higher and that the expense of attending college discriminates against lower classes. However, the federal government has ways of helping those who wish to attend college. For example, over seven million people received the Pell Grant in 2017, totaling over 28.2 billion dollars in financial aid.
The federal government simply cannot afford to be sending people to college for degrees they won’t use. But the problems with college students begin even before they graduate.
Only five percent of students at community colleges finish a two-year degree in two years. The problem is just as bad at public universities, where only 19 percent of students graduate with a four-year degree in four years. The taxpayer will be forced to pay even more for those students who attend college longer.
A college degree can be worth the cost for some people. Even if your job doesn’t relate directly to your degree, you still learn many skills in college that can be useful later in life. But it is not worth it for everyone. People should take the chance with their own money, not the taxpayers’.
Put simply, college is expensive. The desire to educate everyone with a college degree is not worth the price tag.

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