Affordable doesn’t mean free

Yusheng Xia, Editor in Chief

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is not wrong when he states that our country’s college education system has problems. College costs have been skyrocketing throughout the past few decades and the average public college student now graduates with almost $30,000 in debt. However, as my mother always told me, in this world there is no such thing as a free lunch…or in this case, school.

Nothing of value should ever be free. For young adults, getting a college degree is an investment to help students get the tools necessary for obtaining a good job and stable life. College is not mandatory in this country, as students willingly attend because they want a shot at improving their future. The sacrifices they put in is motivation to fuel their efforts; it is what drives them to study hard and receive all that college education has to offer. For many, money is a sacrifice.

Sander’s idea of making college free to all students of America does not solve the country’s lagging education system; instead, it makes it worse. Children from lower income families will no longer feel the pressures of having to work hard to earn financial assistance and those from middle class families will no longer see college as something they need to succeed in since their parents aren’t paying for their tuition.

Construction-wise, taking away the costs of public college tuition has drastic consequences. Private colleges will no longer be able to compete and must lower their costs as well, thus bringing down the availability of funds needed to provide quality education. In addition, making public college free does not mean the costs of colleges won’t continue to rise. Instead, it means that the problem will now be passed on to states, thus providing the possibility that states cut education costs during times of recession. When there are plenty of people who are able to pay for tuition, it makes little sense to completely disregard their funds.

But that brings up the main issue that Sanders highlights very well. There are many people in the country that can’t afford the costs of public college tuition and the solution should be to make it affordable. Yet, affordable is not the same as free. There are ways we can make the cost of college more affordable to students. We can reduce the interest rates on student loans so that those who need to borrow money for college aren’t faced with increasingly high debts. We can offer more merit-based scholarships to poorer students or lower tuition costs for the first two years of public colleges so that those who drop out of colleges don’t face too bad of a financial loss.

As appealing as free public tuition seems, the reality is it is neither realistically possible nor beneficial. In the end, just because the solution exists doesn’t mean it is the right solution. Sorry Sanders, I don’t feel the burn.