Can college be free?

4 mins read

By T.J. Chiang

Recently, Governor Cuomo announced that college will be tuition free at New York state colleges-namely, SUNY and CUNY schools. Ironically, at the same time, I was reading Strapped: Why America’s 20- and 30- Somethings Can’t Get Ahead by Tamara Draut. Just like Cuomo, Draut proposed solutions to the vast amount of student debt incurred by loans. One solution is what she calls “The Contract.” The Contract would entail covering 75 percent of tuition for incomes $25,000 or below. The author then goes to say that it would cost the federal government $48 billion in 2005 dollars. She claims, at the time this was written, that the federal government could have afforded it. Intrigued by the reading and by Cuomo’s plan, I decided to read what Drew University’s Senior Vice President for Enrollment and Institutional Planning, Dr. Robert Massa, who is an expert in this field, has to say about the topic. On his WordPress blog, he suggested that it would be more sensible to and “more equitable to award need-based grants to those students whose family resources are not sufficient to cover the cost of attendance, rather than giving a $6,500 grant to everyone with incomes below a certain level.” Moreover, “some private colleges lose enrollments to SUNY, the actual cost of this program will be significantly higher than current estimates. And inequity is bound to result when a student from a $58,000 income family is treated the same as a student with a $125,000 income; and when low income students are eligible for less grant aid when funds are diverted from need-based aid to help fund the program.” He advocates for need-based aid.

Additionally, in my opinion, it is not sensible to the student to invest in free colleges. The education quality is going to diminish. Though free college seems very nice, as more students flock to free colleges, the student to faculty ratio will greatly increase, which takes away from quality education as faculty are responsible for more students and can’t dedicate time to each student’s needs. Moreover, as we move to free colleges, writing will be replaced by standardized tests that do not foster writing. In fact, employers are looking for people who can write well. Employees must be able to write resumes, cover letters, business memorandums, and emails properly. Living standards, which include room and board, will dramatically decrease. As more students flock to these colleges, dorms will be overcrowded and cleanliness will decrease. Food quality will also dramatically decrease as colleges have to feed more people at one time. Lastly, the state will lose money as well. As more people flock to free colleges, the state cannot sustain free tuition and will inevitably go into debt; and in order not to go into debt, they will find someway to recoup the money through the students. In fact, according to the New York Post, “Under a provision that was added to the tuition bill at the last moment, students who get a free ride at CUNY and SUNY schools must live and work in New York state for up to four years after graduation, or be forced to pay the money back.” In general, though free colleges may be nice, there are many downsides to consider when investing in free colleges.  

T.J. is a senior Sociology major.

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