Countries put great importance in developing education systems that can produce competent workers as they view education to be a big factor in determining the future of a nation. Many scholars and education stakeholders agree that the nation needs to get it right regarding education and the systems supporting it. The top concern is affordability where some think that the cost of attending high school is too high. A better educated workforce will yield benefits for both private and public sectors. Education affects the growth of the economy both directly and indirectly. It directly affects economic growth as it is a key component of human capital. It affects economic growth indirectly by influencing other factors of production.
Keywords: higher education
Arguments for Free Higher Education
A poll carried out by Debate.org showed that 63% of the respondents asserted that higher education should be free, while 37% said it should not be free (Debate.org, 2017). Those arguing for free higher education pointed out that education should not come at a price, stating that education is a right and not a privilege. Some argued that it is the most important item you can have, seeing as one can start over in a new place armed with their credentials only and make a livelihood off it.
Offering free higher education will help in filling the skill gap in the economy (Desai & Govindarajan, 2013). An educated workforce leads to quality building and contribution to the economy. It also means that less people will seek public assistance like social welfare programs. Education in general opens new ideas and way of living that one could not have known before. This helps in expanding economies and empowering the people. Poor people who stand disadvantaged and are not able to pay their school fees may be bright enough to solve some of the world issues if they were educated. Making education free for all translates to everyone getting better jobs, and performing those jobs at their maximum expected input. It also means that everyone is well equipped in whatever job or employment they are in.
When people are well educated and hold good jobs, they pay their taxes which translate to more public funds. More public funds, managed by equally educated people means better social amenities and public services. Educated people also will tend to choose their leaders on facts and weigh the promises made against the delivered, while also highlighting those promises that cannot be achieved. Leaders consequently find that their accountability is questioned and will therefore apply integrity and diligence in public offices.
With the growing burden of student loans, more and more scholars are questioning how sustainable the student loans will be in the future (Page & Clawson, 2016). Many graduates are reluctant to start families and many move back to their parent’s homes due to the loan burdens (Price, 2016). It therefore reduces the chances of a person accumulating wealth, owning a home or even having children. Student loans also count towards the credit worthiness of a person when borrowing for a business undertaking, which makes it even tougher for a person with huge loans to start a business.
Just as the K-12 education is free, since its benefits have been quantified as good for the society, so is higher education (Page & Clawson, 2016). They argue that just as many advanced countries like Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Finland which have free higher education; it should be adopted.
Arguments Against Free Higher Education
Those opposing free higher education argue that now is not the time. They argue that there are various other problems in the education sector that should be solved before it is offered free to all (Weeden & Hultin 2016). Some argue that free education will not be of quality standards as it presently is. It would mean more students, less finances and few teachers. It would also mean that due to crowding, not all programs are offered and a student would miss out on a program they really want to take. Students would be forced to take programs offered in the system.
Others argue that offering higher education for all will mean that vocational jobs have no one to carry them out. Vocational jobs require more of apprenticeship situations other than the structured classroom, teacher, and curriculum setting. Unemployment would still soar, with highly educated people competing for the jobs.
Opponents argue that free higher education would be very expensive for the government to maintain in the long term. They argue that for it to be effectively effected, taxes have to be raised, which could end up hurting the economy. Schools could also be wasteful as they are not competing with other schools on costs.
Case studies of Japan and South Korea showcase that free education does not necessarily build great workforces. The social aspect of free education needs to be evaluated to determine if it will bring excesses in moral decay.
Many of the students, given their poor backgrounds may eventually have to borrow money to cover their living expenses. This means that they would still complete their studies in debt. If it is free, many students may not take studies seriously, since there are no repercussions on loss of money when they are suspended or they miss classes. It may also cause over dependence on government programs, and they may therefore never totally learn financial independence (Terkel, 2011).
Both sides give compelling arguments. A middle ground should therefore be sought. Alternatives to free public higher education include loans which attract zero interest which are deducted depending on how much one earns, or introducing free public education gradually. This can be done by introducing it in one state, followed by another; one school followed by another, or one program followed by another (Goldrick-Rab & Kendall, 2014). However, from the arguments raised, it is clear that a change of pace is needed in higher education financing.
Debate.org (2017). Should higher education be offered to all for free? Retrieved from http://www.debate.org/opinions/should-higher-education-should-be-offered-to-all-for- free
Goldrick-Rab, S., & Kendall, N. (2014). Redefining college affordability: Securing America’s future with a free two-year college option
Govindarajan, V. & Desai, J. (2013). Should higher education be free https://hbr.org/2013/09/higher-education-for-free
Page, M. & Clawson, D. (2017). It’s time to push for free college. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/home/62740.htm
Price, T. (2016). Student debt: Should college tuition be free?SMU. Retrieved from: https://www.smu.edu/News/2016/michael-harris-cq-22nov2016
Terkel, A. (2011 April 1). “Rep. Denny Rehberg: Pell Grants are becoming ‘The welfare of the 21st century’.” Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/01/denny-rehberg-pell-grants-welfare-21st-century_n_843712.html
Weeden, D., & Hultin, S. (2016). ‘Free community college.’ National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved from: http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/free-community-college.aspx