The College for All Act that was proposed by presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders is geared towards increasing the accessibility of education for high school students who are discouraged by the costs of college. In 1978, it would have been possible to pay off an annual tuition fee with a summer job that paid minimum wage. Today, it would take a student an entire year of working a minimum wage job to pay for their annual tuition fee. This monetary limitation raises the question of whether making college free would be beneficial.
The importance of an education can be easily offset by the huge price tag associated with it. For this very reason, many brilliant high school graduates do not pursue a higher education. The fear of not being able to graduate, or graduating with an oppressive amount of debt, is a major limiting factor.
The acquisition of a higher education is an attribute associated with the middle class. This act will provide underprivileged students with the opportunity to gain an education that could potentially change their lives. We have a highly competitive economy that is dependent on a well-educated workforce. An education could unlock many opportunities and also contribute to the well-being of our nation.
With less financial pressure placed on students, they have the opportunity to pursue and excel in a field of interest as opposed to studying a field that will yield high returns. More students will have the opportunity to explore STEM fields, which could be a gateway for the birth of groundbreaking ideas and innovations.
Sanders’ intention is to use federal funds to cover 67 percent of the annual cost of $70 billion for college tuition. States will be responsible for covering the other 33 percent. Additionally, the act would also reform student loans. Interest rates for student loans would be cut in half, and there would be no need to reapply for financial aid every year. This reform would be paid for by imposing a .5 percent tax on Wall Street.
The only requirements for states to be eligible for federal funding is that “states must meet a number of requirements designed to protect students, ensure quality, and reduce ballooning costs.” This act is a costly one, and should have more nuanced requirements to ensure that the students are given help on a need based system.
“A free college education is a good idea at first glance, but has economic and political problems that prevent it from being feasible at this time. Increasing the education level of our workforce can only have positive benefits,” said Sean Dao, a senior biochemistry major. In order for congress to consider this proposal, the requirements for federal funding eligibility need to be laid out in a more specific manner.
Obama also emphasized the importance of an education with his free community college plan. Initiatives that help ease burdens that are inevitably bestowed upon students are a step in the right direction for the well-being of our country. After all, the cure for cancer could be trapped inside the mind of someone who can’t afford an education.