Dhathry Doppalapudi | Torrey Pines High School Senior
With the presidential elections coming up next year, candidates like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are talking about their plans to soften the stress of student debt.
Sanders has proposed a plan to not only make college free in the U.S. but also to forgive all $1.6 trillion of American student debt that has accumulated. Warren’s proposal is less extreme, with a limit on student loan forgiveness for households with income over $250,000. Although these plans may be unrealistic, many students think that it is important to talk about them. This topic is especially important to high school seniors, who are currently going through the college application process and must consider the tuition and expenses they will rack up by choosing a certain college.
“I don’t know how feasible it is to make college completely free, but in an ideal world, it would be like that,” Serene, a senior at La Jolla High School, says. “Tuition is so excessively expensive and it prevents so many people from getting an education.”
“I think it’s important that we look at other countries, especially those that do provide for university or cheaper universities, and see how we can possibly model after that,” Torrey Pines High School senior Beatriz says. “Going to a university should be a stepping stone for your education, not something that’s going to hold you back for the rest of your life, because of your crippling debt.”
Channing, a Torrey Pines High School senior, disagrees. “People do not recognize that the funding for this idea has to come from somewhere and since it would be supplied by the government, that funding would come out of taxpayer dollars,” she says. “That means even those who did not utilize the access to this opportunity would be harmed.”
Many people who oppose lowering the cost of college argue that those who cannot afford a four-year university can simply go to community college instead. However, community college is not free in over thirty states.
Additionally, attending a community college is extremely stigmatized and seen as less of a qualification for jobs than attending a four-year university. People with a degree from a community college are put at a disadvantage against those with degrees from a four-year university in the job market.
“Community college is definitely looked down upon and perceived as something that is only attended by people who couldn’t get into a four-year,” Beatriz says. “I have never even considered community college to be an option for me.”
Post-high school education is increasingly becoming somewhat of a requirement to get well-paying jobs. In the 1800s, when a high school diploma became seen as a requirement for job security, public high school was made free for everyone. As our society has changed, and as a college degree has become almost necessary for high school graduates to achieve at least a middle-class lifestyle, it is only logical that changes should be made to make college more accessible to everyone as well. The past’s high school diploma is today’s bachelor’s degree.
“My parents are going to pay for my tuition,” Serene says. “But I’m one of the lucky ones and I know that there are a lot of families who can’t do that for their kids and it’s just unfair to them.”
College should be seen as a necessary public service, rather than a business. It’s not only necessary for the future financial security of the individuals attending college but for the whole of our country. America needs young people to be as educated as they can possibly be. It is crucial that we are capable of stepping up and leading our country in our increasingly complex and competitive world, and this can only be done by making college more affordable and available to all of the young people who have a right to education.