ISSUE-003

Governments should offer college and university education free of charge to all students.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.


Should colleges and universities be free to all students? Admittedly, there are people who think that higher education should not entirely be dependent on government money. Instead, colleges and universities should charge students and even be for-profit organizations. However, from my point of view, as well as the view of many others, the answer is yes: governments should make college and university education free to all.


To begin with, it is understandable that some conservatives, who endorse the idea of little, if any, government intervention in the functioning of society, will argue that education, particularly at the level of colleges and universities, should not be free. In their views, the so-called “free education” actually comes at the expense of taxpayers. However, college education does not necessarily directly benefit them as they may not have received such education. Moreover, another argument those conservatives tend to make is that while it is necessary for children to be educated so they can be a productive member of the society, this education at basic level could be sufficiently taught before college. The reason for college education, as a result, is the pursuit for better career and more like an investment. In this light, higher education should not be free of charge and entirely funded by government.


The lines of reasoning above essentially assume the purpose of higher education to be a more lucrative career prospect, which I cannot agree. In my view, the true purpose of higher education is to provide a fair ladder, through which people can achieve upward social mobility. Here, the key concept is achieving fairness, and being free of charge to students is the critical requisite to achieve to that goal. If colleges and universities are charging students for the education, those who come from economically challenged families will undoubtedly be disadvantaged. One needs to look no further than the present-day United States of America, where college education is considered exceedingly expensive even to many middle class families. As a result, many students with low family incomes have difficulties in enrolling at college despite their outstanding academic performance. The overall consequence is that the social mobility in the United States has been low compared to other developed nations.


In addition, I would like to offer my objection to the argument made earlier that knowledge and skills taught before college are sufficient for students to survive in the society today. While this could be the case 30 or 40 years ago, today the advancement of science and technology, as well as the increasing degree of the division of labor, a career requires intensive training and deep understanding of a particular field. Apparently, this is not what high school graduates can adequately master and education on college level is deemed essential. For example, a few decades ago someone with a high school diploma can become a blue-collar worker and receive decent payment to support a family with middle-class lifestyle. Yet, today workers worldwide are facing the challenges from automation and the middle-class lifestyle can hardly be sustained by working class parents. Instead, in the United States and Europe, one needs at least a college degree to become a white-collar, which is considered the new requirement for the middle class. Therefore, the progress in productivity and the division of labor has redefined what is necessary for a worker to survive and thrive. College and university education are necessary, not optional today.


To summarize, because the purpose of higher education is to enable students to achieve upward mobility in a fair manner, it is necessary to make colleges and universities free of charge to all students. From a practical point of view, in order to become a productive member in our society today, one needs at least a college degree, so it becomes even more compelling that governments should offer free higher education.

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