April 14, 2024

After six years of college, I am more ready to graduate than anyone can probably imagine. I love to learn and have received a wonderful, high-quality education, but I have been singing along to the tune of thousands of dollars for a while and it is time.

As graduation looms closer, along with the 2016 presidential elections, I have been hearing and dwelling on phrases such as “debt-free college” and “tuition-free college” and basically any other string of words implying higher education with no cost.

It honestly drives me crazy. At this point, everyone should know plans concocted by politicians like Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders are not actually free. Billions of dollars are required to make plans like that free, coming from both work-study programs and federal aid drawn from — you guessed it — more taxes from working citizens like you and me.

“We should be more like Europe,” someone might say. “They have free higher education. I’m moving to Europe.”

This phrase has circulated around my circle of peers and is yet another string of words I am tired of hearing.

People should get their facts straight. Free is a completely relative term at this point. According to BBC News, a student studying in Berlin costs the country about $14,600 a year, on average. There are 170,000 students in Berlin, with nearly 7 percent being foreign. The bulk of that money falls on the German taxpayer in the form of high income taxes — and that is just in Berlin.

Another point to consider is Europe enrolls far fewer students than the United States. The National Center for Education Statistics reported 20.2 million students were expected to be enrolled in colleges and universities across America in fall 2015, compared to the 2.4 million students Germany has, according to The Guardian.

Not only do European countries and the United States differ greatly in tax rates, they also differ in the number of students. To simply say, “We should be more like Europe,” reveals ignorance of the facts.

This is what it all comes down to. Yes, it is time to invest in education and figure out how to lower interest rates for students so they can enter the workforce without being thousands of dollars in debt.

But can we figure out a way to do it that does not require more taxes for the American people, who are already heavily taxed as is?

Perhaps cuts to less-vital government programs is the answer. Maybe the answer is better opportunities for student workers. If free college is really as important as everyone is making it out to be, there has to be a better way.

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