Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate for president, has developed a proposal for free public college education. His “College for All” bill has received a lot of attention. Although there are questions about how to execute this plan in light of the current educational system and economics in the U.S., I firmly agree with Senator Sanders and his proposal. I believe that this country must make education a top priority. To that end, universities should be free since that would make it possible for all qualified citizens – rich or poor – to get an education and contribute to society.
Today, many families have concerns about paying for their children’s college education. Even in my two-income family, my parents worry about how to send both my brother and me to college. I can only imagine the struggles of a less financially stable family with fewer options for providing their children with a quality college education. Throughout the world, there are thousands of low-income students who have the potential to do exceptionally well in college and contribute to their communities, but are unable to pay for higher education.
Hopefully as a result of Sanders’ proposal, the United States will realize that it is best to provide its citizens free university education so that everyone has the opportunity to become educated and contributing members of society, regardless of their economic background.
Although eliminating college tuition sounds like a radical idea, countries including Germany, Norway, and Sweden offer free college education to all citizens. In fact, Germany eliminated college tuition because it believed that it discouraged students from attending university. Today, Germany has a good reputation with American students for its free college education programs, compared with annual tuition rates of $20,000 to $40,000 in the U.S. Germany has become a target for determined undergraduates worldwide and is viewed as an appealing environment for fostering careers. Nearly 50 percent of international students remain in Germany after receiving their degree, paying taxes and adding to the skilled workforce driving the robust German economy. This means that the United States is missing out on educated professionals.
The primary argument against the “College for All” proposal is where the funding would come from. One practical solution would be to impose fees on large stock transactions, taxing the wealthy to help provide free college tuition. One interesting idea my mother had is to trim state and federal budgets and eliminate wasteful spending that could be redirected toward higher education. It makes sense to invest the majority of our wealth in educating young people to prepare them to drive our economy.
Some assume that education is already a priority in the United States, but I can assure you that it isn’t. America is one of the richest countries in the world, but it chooses to spend more on defense than on social programs such as education. But how is investing $604.5 billion on military defense more beneficial than providing free education for all? Everyone always asks Sanders how he’s going to pay for free college, but they never ask how the United States plans to pay for our endless wars.
“We are moving in exactly the wrong direction in higher education,” Sanders stated. “Forty years ago, tuition in some of the great American public universities and colleges was virtually free. Today, the cost is unaffordable for many working-class families. Higher education must be a right for all, not just wealthy families.”
There are too many in the world who don’t have the chance to show what they are capable of. These people, if given a first-rate education, could be future inventors, scientists, and teachers – people who will bring positive change to the world.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.