Colleges are mostly prestigious academic institutions every high school student wishes to join. They develop every nation’s future professionals who will run different industries. Future pilots, medical experts, lawyers, researchers, and engineers are nurtured here. However, most colleges are not free, necessitating the debate to make college learning universally accessible and free of charge.
Most poor parents with bright students want governments to make college studies free to allow their children further studies. Zero-fee proponents also argue that making colleges free creates a more qualified graduate workforce.
But the big question arises, “Should college be free?” This post answers this question with a “no.” Keep reading to learn why students should pay for their college education.
Compromised Education Quality and Value
Making college education free compromises overall educational quality. Standards deteriorate where everything is free of charge. Below are the four leading ways free college dilutes academic standards and quality.
Many countries with free college education have less money going to these learning institutions. The funding they channel there is hardly sufficient to promote high-quality service delivery. Besides, free colleges face financial challenges, like decreased salaries and untimely equipment replacement.
Unfortunately, the lack of proper equipment and demotivated staff directly affects overall service delivery to learners. Remember, college fees finance essential facilities like hostel repairs, library equipment, and general campus maintenance. All these factors compromise the overall campus experience college students crave.
Decreased Degree Value
Zero-college fee proponents think that a larger number of undergraduates is a valid reason why college should be free. Indeed, every student wants to spend four years learning the subjects that add value to their careers. In the United States, for example, only 32.1% of persons aged 25 years and above hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Making every college free of charge would mean a higher number of graduates.
So, is it good to have a highly qualified society? Yes, it is. However, the law of demand and supply applies equally. Thus, more degree holders can have a counter-effect on the labor market. While companies like more skilled hands, they compensate for them through reduced pay and benefits.
Moreover, employers raise the bar for jobs, reducing the value of undergraduate degrees. These papers might become “advanced high school diplomas.”
Poor Learning Environments
People are social creatures and heavily depend on their environments. Thus, a student’s learning environment also directly affects their educational outcomes. When colleges become free, a higher student-to-faculty ratio would mean students won’t get the best learning. They lose personalized attention, experience reduced social engagement in classes, and have a poor classroom environment.
Additionally, roundtable discussions soon die because of the increased student population and inadequate facilities. The death of these focused discussions assumes that all students learn at the same level during lecture hall sessions. But the fact is that students have varying learning abilities and learn at different paces. These poor learning environments gradually erode academic standards when students stop paying college fees.
Unreasonably High Entry Requirements
Free college education proponents argue that removing college fees increases enrollment. However, increased student intake forces learning institutions to raise the bar unreasonably to accommodate a manageable number of students. Government learning institutions don’t have the room to accommodate every qualified student.
Raising entry requirements is equally counterproductive because it locks out deserving students. Sadly, it doesn’t lock them out for any reason other than free colleges’ inability to handle more students. Eventually, student acceptance levels could drop to as low as 1%.
What happens when acceptance levels unreasonably fall? Clever students from poor backgrounds wouldn’t see the need to work hard to gain admission. They lose the motivation that made them work hard to enter free colleges.
Free College Education Has Serious Cost Implications
College education shouldn’t be free because countries with free education face severe cost implications. Superficially, the very thought of availing of universal education sounds sweet in every proponent’s ears. But the facts are that even developed nations with this system experience financial constraints. Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Germany are famous for their free higher education systems.
These European nations offered everyone zero-cost higher education until 2006, irrespective of their nationalities. However, the current economic state is changing things for the worse. They started by introducing school fees for all foreign learners from outside the EU.
In 2006, Denmark led the move, followed by Sweden in 2011, and Finland in 2017. All these countries now require international students to pay college fees. In Finland, the change came from the political class and taxpayers who complained about their government funding foreigners who also enjoyed social benefits at their government’s expense.
Possible Government Interference
Possible government interference is another reason colleges shouldn’t be free of charge. When the state funds all higher education operations, it will have the biggest unilateral say in its affairs. It can dictate all the guidelines the institutions and their tutors must follow. After all, whoever pays the piper calls for the tunes.
The danger of state interference in this critical academic stage will most likely limit academic freedom. It also limits professors’ ability to teach what they know is the best for scholars to learn and not what the state wants.
No wonder even US university dons, considered the world’s watchdog for freedom, have valid reservations. Here is what the American Association of University Professors says about possible state interference in higher education:
“Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition.”
Don’t forget that colleges aren’t primary or high schools. These are the finesse of academic development, and any undue interference or manipulation in them is disastrous. So, how much would free college cost? It could cost a nation its invaluable freedom of academic expression.
The word “free” college education isn’t as accessible as it sounds because it’s only free to students benefitting from it. However, someone directly pays for that education. If you are dealing with a government, it can only fund free education using local and international donations or your taxes. The first option isn’t feasible because no donor can indefinitely fund a nation’s higher education.
No citizen living in any country wants their government to raise taxes. So, increased taxation is one of the biggest problems with free college tuition. Things are even worse during this post-pandemic era that is also reeling from the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war. Students must pay college tuition fees to avoid burdening already overburdened taxpayers.
Free College Education Kills the Private Sector
Higher education is a sensitive area requiring everyone’s contribution. No earthly government can provide everything for its citizens without the private sector’s input. Making college education free would directly kill the private sector’s contribution to the educational sector. The reason is these colleges depend on tuition and other fees to operate.
Remember, private colleges employ thousands of people directly and indirectly. They provide decent livelihoods for their suppliers, plus their employees. Will the government hire all these sacked workers and give business to closed colleges’ suppliers? Definitely, it won’t. So, students must pay college fees to protect other people’s livelihoods.
Free Colleges Will Breed Serious Economic Problems
Lastly, we think students should pay college fees to avoid breeding widespread economic problems. These problems might come from reduced job opportunities and overqualified graduate workers. Read on to learn more.
Reduced Job Opportunities
College degrees can open doors for different career opportunities. But the flip side is if everyone had a degree due to free college education, a problem would arise in the labor market. Clever employers would shift selection goalposts to narrow their applicant choices. They can intentionally introduce irrelevant criteria like GPAs, participation in extracurricular activities, and special abilities to lock out qualified candidates.
Overqualified and Dissatisfied Job Seekers
Overqualified and dissatisfied job seekers are another reason students must pay fees. Superficially, more graduates in the job market might seem to benefit employers. However, having too many graduates means many job seekers would be overqualified. This problem would be more prevalent in fields unrelated to their majors.
The challenge here arises because too many graduates can cause high turnover. Why? Overqualified persons who only work to pay bills easily get bored and frustrated. Soon, they quit their jobs when they get the right job opening.
Additionally, overly qualified employees can threaten older employees with lower academic qualifications. Results? Managing a united team becomes difficult. The “old guards” entrenched in the system can intentionally frustrate the “young Turks” to secure their turf.
Closing Remarks on Why College Should Not Be Free
Many no-fee proponents have varying reasons why college should be free. They cite increased college enrollment and the need for universal education as reasons. However, the flip side strongly argues against free college education. This post shared the main reasons for this position to help you make an informed decision.