Education at its higher levels is paid in the United States, and this fact is the topic of many discussions. The government invests a great deal into educational institutions; however, citizens demand entirely free education. Eaton et al. claim that the “federal government directly finances student loans, and it is the largest recipient of interest income from student loan payments” (522). Moreover, educational programs like international student exchanges or scholarship contests exist because of governmental influence. This paper aims to argue that education should not be free for everyone and discusses the possible outcomes of reallocating citizens’ money from educational funding.
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It is not necessary for education to be entirely free as people who are motivated enough can still get their degree even if it is not affordable. In the United States, pre-school and school-level education is available for most citizens, and it provides general knowledge for a child to grow up and become a decent member of society. Higher education is paid, and its cost depends on the institution’s authority and the state where it is located. When a higher education became available, each citizen got the right to apply it, so many people who are not capable of getting a degree or do not need a higher education attempted to reach it. The only factor standing between a person and such education is that it is not affordable. However, some programs exist to help young people get degrees, such as scholarships or funding from companies, universities, and the government.
Moreover, paid education motivates students to be more responsible for their professional choices. Demange et al. state that “as students bear the cost of education, their choice whether to study and where is determined by the return of the investment as the quality of education” (2). If education were free for everyone, too many people would use the opportunity only because it was prestigious in society. Then they would try to apply for jobs that require a high education level even though they do not enjoy it or could work effectively at a job that does not require a high educational level.
Today, paid education guarantees financial stability and a high level of salaries for another component of education – human resources. Free education will force the government to change the way how educational workers earn money: they would make the salary average, which is lower than in the case with paid education, and would update the rewarding system. The financial autonomy of institutions makes it possible to set tuition fees, adapt salaries to the appropriate level, and optimize other economic aspects (Michavila and Martinez 52). If education is free, colleges and universities will not be able to consider the workers’ professionalism while planning their budgets. For many top educational institutions, it means that they will have to decrease the salary level for professors, deans, and other academic workers. Needless to say that cutting salaries will severely affect professors’ motivation to perform better, and thus the quality of education, in general, will decrease.
The critical point to consider apart from students, professors, and motivation is educational institutions’ funding. Most of them exist because of the investment each student makes to get a degree. Parents create children’s savings bank accounts, the filling of which depend on the balance of willingness to afford education and the family’s well-being (Chen and Elliott 2). It is hard for most people to save money, but it works well for society and the educational system in particular. However, if education becomes free, the government will require money to spend on it, and the primary financial recourse for them will be taxes. The increase will severely affect many citizens, including those who were not interested in education. The situation would be similar to a family that saves money for education yearly, but with the whole country involved in this process. Society is sensitive to any changes in the tax system, and its payment increase for the sake of education can cause aggressive discussions and undermine citizens’ loyalty to the government.
The quality of education might sharply decrease if it becomes free as it means that all of the institutions will have to be at the same average level. The best and brightest people would not get enough from the average range of knowledge, which might motivate them to leave the country. It is harmful to the United States as the brightest people move society, establish companies, and increase employment opportunities.
As long as education on its base levels is affordable, there is no need to make higher education free. People will not be responsible enough to choose their educational path carefully, and the consequences of such an approach are harmful to society in general. Moreover, free education will require governmental funding, and it will be taken from citizens through taxes. Not everyone in the United States is interested in making education free. The quality of education will also decrease as academic workers’ financial and rewarding motivation will be cut. Lastly, free for everyone means average, and such an approach is not right for education as one of its essential functions is to reveal bright people who move society’s progress.
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Chen, Zibei, and William Elliott. “Saving for College: Perspectives from Participants in a Universal Children’s Savings Program.” Journal of Children and Poverty, 2020, pp. 1-16.
Demange, Gabrielle, et al. ”Competition in the Quality of Higher Education: The Impact of Student Mobility.” International Tax and Public Finance, 2020, pp. 1-40.
Eaton, Charlie, et al. “The Financialization of US Higher Education.” Socio-Economic Review, vol. 14, no. 3, 2016, pp. 507-535.
Michavila, Francisco, and Jorge M. Martinez. “Excellence of Universities Versus Autonomy, Funding and Accountability.” European Review, vol. 26, no. 1, 2018, pp. 48-56.