Treu Talk: The realities of “free college”

Elissa Treu, Reporter

The student debt crisis is a problem that will affect many students at Bellevue West in the future, with total student loan debt in the United States equating to $1.5 trillion as of February 2019, according to Forbes. The root of this issue stems from the initial cost of college tuition. Campus renovations, room and board, professor salaries, and growing additions of student welfare programs all have to be paid for by someone. 

Adding to the problem, an increase in people attaining a college degree under their belt has proportionally raised the cost of attendance in schools. “Higher enrollment has brought an expansion of financial-aid programs, a need to increase budgets for faculty pay and on-campus student services, and a decline in financial support from state governments,” according to Ohio State University Economics professor Richard Vedder in an interview with Business Insider. Students who need to borrow money from the government and major in a field with high unemployment rates are slapped in the face after college with scarce job prospects and a bank account in the negatives. It seems like a never-ending cycle. 

Looking forward into the 2020 election, the majority of Democratic candidates have voiced their ideas to diminish the weighty cost and after-effects of college. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced her $1.25 trillion plan to cancel up to $50,000 of student loan debt for every individual whose household income is less than $100,000 a year, while individual households making less than $250,000 dollars a year will have portions of debt forgiven. On the even more progressive side, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders advocates for completely free public universities.

While proposals like these seem like easy solutions, young students dreaming of the perfect college experience seem to forget what these plans really entail. Questions I have asked myself are “How can one politician ‘cancel’ huge amounts of debt?” and “Why should families who have nothing to do with a student’s individual financial regrets give up their own money to help them?”

While proclaiming myself to be an economic expert would be foolish, I do have enough awareness to understand that money doesn’t just evaporate into space when Americans decide that debt needs to be cancelled. During the fourth Democratic debate, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar stated “The difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something we can get done.” Although the comment was regarding Warren’s plan for Medicare for all, it aligns with the recurring extensive plans that politicians propose offering free college for all without acknowledging the responsibility the claim carries. While politicians irresponsibly and repeatedly preach their promises to college students, it is our job as Americans to challenge these proposals with informing ourselves and thinking critically. Not taking these steps would be a disservice to the education system and young people working for a better future here in America.