University Education: To be free, or not to be? That Is The Question.

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Great minds can be born and great minds can be made. Like Leonardo Di Vinci, whose birth status denied him the possibilities of a public education, instead he found ways to educate himself becoming one of the greatest revolutionaries in documented history. A couple centuries later, the importance and attendance of primary education traverses status, race, gender and age in most countries. But what about secondary education? Beyond scholarships, grants, and the occasional “loaded” family member willing to support a full college ride, university education can be a daunting financial burden incurring student loans many cannot afford to undertake. In the U.S. individual states reserve some higher educational benefits for their residents but across the board there is no standard benefit, or guarantee one can get help with paying for school in order to attend. Which begs the question of college education in the United States: Should it be free to those who wish to attend?

The International Debate Education Association (IDEA) (n.d.) presents that it is a fundamental right of individuals to experience university and have access to the knowledge it affords as it can be difficult to become fully informed and effective citizens without such education; though there are numerous effective citizens who turn to self-paced studies versus formal education (Points For). In a point of view piece published by The New York Times online, Howard Cohen (2003), former chancellor of the Purdue University Calumet, quotes a study from the Milken Institute stating, “the single factor with the greatest power to explain differences in per capita income between states is the percentage of college graduates” and argues that, “Our way of life depends on there being many individuals who are continuously learning and changing” (para 5, 7). Perhaps if higher education was free, the differences in per capita income would be drastically reduced, establishing more of a balance. In affording individuals the opportunity of a free college education, pros of such a decision could be:

  • Cultural and Leadership Development,
  • Breaking Free of Social Strata,
  • Fostering more Social Equality, and
  • Eliminating burdensome fees often too great for young adults and other financially disadvantaged individuals (IDEA, n. d.).

A point noted against free university education draws is that “free education” tends not to benefit the disadvantaged, the group one would imagine helping the most, but rather the middle and upper classes. As seen in Ireland, poorer communities still view higher education as something for the rich even though the schooling is free. These demographics continue to enter the workforce in similar numbers as they and before the ending of fees, with students preferring trade schools over universities when seeking qualifications beyond the secondary level (International Debate Education Association, n.d.). Other arguments against free education include:

  • Burden to the state and the taxpayers is too great,
  • Quality in education would suffer, and
  • Would foster insufficient allocation of state resources (IDEA, n. d.).
Big news: President Obama just proposed making two years of community college free for anyone who’s willing to work for it. #FreeCommunityCollege
Posted by The White House on Thursday, January 8, 2015

President Obama recently proposed a plan for a government program that would make community college free for millions of students attending half-time or full-time that maintain a 2.5 grade point average, and show signs of steady progress toward completing a program (Gonchar, 2015, para 3, 8). Should such a program be accepted and implemented, there will no doubt be a divide of support.

In a current discussion of the topic ‘Should university education be free?’ @richardcalhoun says, “Inane question with respect, no such thing as free, all actions also have unintended consequences unless thought through,” while @desha1 says, “YES higher education should be free or it should at least be free for those who cannot afford the cost!”

Author’s Stance:

While there are valid arguments on both side of the fence, after much deliberation, I agree that university education should be free. But I also feel there should be some established rules in place that help to govern the system for its highest and best use. Free schooling would make instruction accessible to a demographic that otherwise couldn’t afford such education. From a socio-economic perspective, this could have a great deal of positive influence on relations within our own society, making the eclectic melting pot that is America, a culture that fosters learning and citizens more inclined to give back to society, without the fear of monetary repercussions that can be troublesome and discouraging, especially for middle and lower class societies. I feel in doing so there would be an explosion of niche market creations that further creativity, technology, healthcare, and society as a whole in more positive ways because in a giving-based relationship, or mutually beneficial relationship, people are more inclined to give back. In essence, the knowledge is given, and the application(s) can become some form of productive use for society in a way of giving back.

What do you think? Should university education be free?

For more information and to get further involved with the discussion check out these links:

On Twitter: Should university education be free?

On Debate.org: Should college education be free?

On Facebook: Check out President Obama’s proposal of free community college

Want to learn more about President Obama’s Proposal? Check out ‘Should a College Education be Free?’ on The New York Times online.

Reflection:

As a producer of original content it is my responsibility to research and report facts objectively, while also considering multiple sides of an argument. Bearing in mind the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics (2014), I made an effort to be accurate and fair, as well as identify and verify sources clearly for readers (para 5, 10). Ethical writing principles necessitate objectivity, which was my goal for the entirety of the article until the end where I detailed my own stance on the matter. I also attempted to remain impartial until the culmination of my opinion. In order to verify my sources I researched the authors, analyzed the bibliographies of the material as well as the site addresses. I also looked for sources that addressed both sides of the argument that also adhered to the SPJ Code of Ethics.

Though I am not a professional journalist my goal was to take certain steps to demonstrate my own reliability to readers. My biggest goal was to avoid generalizations in my writing. Next, I wanted to be sure to present both sides of the argument neutrally. I also utilized relevant sources, many of which readers have the opportunity to interact and inform themselves on the issue with as they are platforms like Debate.org. My chosen resources might help lend credibility to my article due to the contribution of their content to this piece and their own verified sources from which those authors obtained their information.

References:

Cohen, H. (2003). Who should pay for higher education? Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/ref/college/collegespecial2/coll_aascu_povcohen.html

Gonchar, M. (2015). Should a college education be free? Retrieved from: http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/23/should-a-college-education-be-free/?_r=0

International Debate Education Association (idea). (n.d.). This house believes university education should be free. Retrieved from: http://idebate.org/debatabase/debates/education/house-believes-university-education-should-be-free

Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/lumaxart/2137729748/”>lumaxart</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com/”>Foter</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-SA</a>

Society of Professional Journalists. (2014, September 6). SPJ Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

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