– For a lot of us, a
big chunk of our lives are spent thinking about and
working towards one thing, a college degree. And why not? According to one recent
study, in 2015 college grads earned 56% more than high school grads. It was the largest gap the
study found since 1973. Plus, most companies these days aren’t satisfied with just
a high school diploma. I mean, have you looked at ads for entry-level jobs recently? Seems like everyone wants
two years of experience and a bachelors degree, at a minimum. The problem is, college
costs are insane these days. To pay for it, students are
taking on more and more debt. It’s getting to the point where unless your last name
is Bezos or Zuckerberg a college education kind
of feels like a pipe dream. One answer is free college. It was a big part of Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign. – We should have free tuition at public colleges and universities. That should be a right of all Americans regardless of the income
of their families. – And tuition free community college is now listed in the official platform of the Democratic party. Even some deeply red Republican
states like the idea. Since 2014, Tennessee has been offering two years of tuition-free
community college to all high school graduates,
regardless of income. But free college really isn’t free. That money has to come from somewhere. And while it sounds
great for poor students, are we really cool with rich
students not paying anything? Is free college really
as good as it sounds? Take a look at these price tags. The average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017-2018 school
year was about $10,000 at public colleges and
$35,000 at private colleges. That’s just one year of college. I know people who don’t
make that in a year. But it wasn’t always like that. In 1987, in today’s dollars, a year at a public college
cost around $3,200, and at a private college
it was around $15,000. That means today, only 30 years later, students are paying 129%
more at private colleges and 213% more at public colleges. Costs continue to rise for
a bunch of reasons including increased demand, more
available financial aid and a lack of state funding. As a result, colleges
keep raising their prices. And paying for it all is easy. Students come up with
that money, no problem. And if you can’t, there’s
something wrong with you. Now obviously that sounds ridiculous. Most students have to take out loans. It’s become the largest form of personal debt in the country. Larger than credit card
debt and car loans. Students who borrow, end up graduating with an average of
$34,000 in student loans. That’s up from $20,000 just 10 years ago. Graduating with all that debt means you’re less likely to buy a house or a car and you’re more likely to live
at home with your parents, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. No judgment, stack your bread. Free college is one way
to combat student debt. Now, when lawmakers say free college, what they usually mean is tuition-free. Other costs like living in a dorm or paying rent or paying for
a meal plan aren’t included. States like California,
Oregon and Tennessee all offer some version of free college. In 2017, San Francisco
became the first city to offer all of it’s
residents free tuition at it’s community college. And outside of the US, countries like Germany, Denmark,
Finland, Norway and Sweden offer free college at all of
their public universities. Supporters of free
college often point to our public school system from
kindergarten to twelfth grade. It’s free for every student,
regardless of their income. This access to learning,
they say, helps the economy, strengthens our Democracy and is critical to the health and success
of future generations. So, why not extend that
to college as well? And one of the biggest
benefits of offering free college education, is
that it encourages people to apply to college who didn’t think they could afford it before. This could g a long way in
addressing income inequality. The case against free college
comes from a variety of people reminding us all that free
college actually costs money. To begin with, raising
property or income taxes for any reason is always
a tough sell politically. Conservatives often argue that
if taxes are raised too high residents could move to other
states where taxes are lower. Then there are the costs
that come with free tuition. The City College of San Francisco saw a huge spike in enrollment after it began it’s free tuition program. Now, the college is asking the city to cover the costs like
hiring more professors and providing student services. There’s also the argument
that offering free tuition to everyone could just be a waste of money since not everyone wants
to get a college degree. There’s research showing
that graduation rates fall, the less students pay. In fact, 47% of community
college enrollees dropout of school and
that number might increase if it becomes free for everyone. So, free tuition might raise
the already high dropout rates. Others argue that if the
point of free college is to help students who can’t afford it, why not increase grant money that goes to low-income students instead? That way we’re not subsidizing the cost of college for students
from high-income families that might have no problem paying. After all, the true cost of college is more than just tuition and fees. You’ve got rent, you’ve got
food, there’s transportation. And man, don’t even get
me started on books. I got financial aid, so
I’m not gonna tell y’all how much I paid for
college, but one semester one book cost half of my tuition, half. So, what do you think? Is free college a good idea? If so, who should pay for it? Let us know in the comments below. And if you’re a middle
or a high school teacher you can get your students
talking about this topic on KQED Learn, somewhere
in this general area. And if you’re a student, you can teach your teacher something by showing them this video on KQED Learn. And if you’re neither of those, you still probably are a music fan, so you should definitely
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