Students and Sanders’ promise of free college

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By Sheena Marvin
MI First Election

From the very start of his presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders has stuck to a promise important to many young voters: free college.


As Sanders put it in his New Hampshire victory speech, shown in this CNN video, “When we need the best-educated workforce in the world, yes, we are going to make public colleges and universities tuition free.”

Under Sanders’ plan, the federal government would cover the cost by imposing a financial transaction tax on Wall Street. Sanders has stressed in his speeches public universities are free in many other countries and believes it could be a possibility in the United States as well, if students demand it.

First-time voter Kayla Draheim said higher education would be a big step forward in rebuilding our economy.

“The lack of wealth distribution could be largely solved by educational reform,” said Draheim. “As an entire population, we could never not benefit from having a more educated workforce and getting more people out into the working field.”

The most common roadblock for attending college is figuring out how to finance it, Draheim said.

“I am very fortunate to be able to go to college and have the money to do so,” said Draheim. “However there are lots of other people that don’t have this opportunity. Everyone that wants the chance to better themselves and get higher education should be able to without worrying about the cost.”

Neal Matta, a freshman, agreed.

“I think it will help America in the long-run instead of the short run,” said Matta.“It will lead more kids to realize they can have bigger goals without worrying about the cost, rather than having minimum wage jobs, turning to crime, or drug abuse.”

Ross B. Emmett, professor of political economy and political theory and constitutional democracy, is curious to know the kind of options will be available to students who are being publicly paid for.

The universities most people would get into would not necessarily be Ivy League, but instead be more community colleges and the expansion of online education, said Emmett.

Though he recognizes the many opportunities a program like this would afford young people, Emmett also stresses the potential flaws Sanders would have to address if this idea came into effect.

“Another effect would be it would cause problems with trade jobs that do not require a college degree, such as welding,” said Emmett. “If education was free, why would someone go to a trade job if they had the opportunity to do something else? In the US we need around 100,000 welders, would that impact it?”

The many additional costs aside from tuition, including the time commitment, could be another hindrance, said Emmett.

“Saying university education is free, doesn’t mean that it is actually free,” said Emmett. “There is also housing and food to consider, which I presume would not be free.”

“While this idea is a very positive one for people who are students and are thinking this is a great idea. The question is who pays and whether the secondary impacts of the opportunities that creates.” said Emmett.

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