Why Community College should be Free

The question of whether or not to have free community college in The United States is a hotly debated issue. Opinions run deep on both sides, and those positions seem to be deeply held and mostly inflexible. Lately, it seems that more and more people are lending support to the idea of free community college.

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The measure seeks for responsible students to receive two years of free study at a community college, which makes it possible to finish the first half of a degree and acquire, at no cost, the necessary skills needed to pursue higher education (Biden and Garcetti). Community college must be made free to improve education and our society at large.

Jill Biden and Eric Garcetti are writers for Inside Higher Ed. They argue that, “A high school diploma is no longer enough to ensure a stable career and a middle class income.” In fact, people who decide not to continue their post-secondary education or who drop out of school and do not graduate are often out of work or stuck in low-paying jobs while employers leave positions vacant each year. Employers are now looking for better-prepared employees with post-secondary education.

Years ago, the labor market mainly demanded employees with lower educational levels to fill positions in the industry, such as construction or manufacturing. However, the economy is moving towards a globalized market, where it is increasingly necessary to cover the demand for jobs with higher education. As a result in fewer job opportunities for workers who interrupt their studies or do not continue to study post-secondary education.

The rising cost of tuition means that a portion of the potential labor force does not have the opportunity to receive the training and education it needs to get jobs stable enough and well paid to support themselves and their families. A job or a stable income could solve many problems in other areas such as poverty, income inequality, health, insecurity, housing, and the well-being of children.

Today, more than ever, the nation needs to create opportunities for responsible students who seek to continue their post-secondary education and be better able to aspire to cover the new labor demand. This can be done without burdeningm them with having to cover the costs of tuition and assuming decades of debts even before beginning their career.

Andrew P. Kelly is a writer for The New York Times who expresses some doubt that the proposal is real because nothing is free. He believes this proposal will only further burden the debt of the country, making things more difficult for taxpayers. However, taxpayers must understand this as a long-term investment strategy. It is an investment in our common future that will pay for itself in the form of a better educated population that will have higher income and that will generate a higher tax base. It will be a win-win proposition and a great return of the money invested by us.

According to the point made by Kelly, an opponent of free college, this measure will generate congestion in the courses, causing demand that cannot be met, compromising the quality of the classes. He said that, “tuition-free colleges will not have the resources to serve additional students without compromising the quality of their offerings.” And the point made by Kelly is true, since there are classes essential for the academic advancement of a student that the community colleges do not offer in proportion to the demand. This results in students who do not get a place in these courses and are delayed a semester and sometimes a year. In the same way, the quality of teaching is affected when basic subjects are taught for giant groups instead of opening several options at different times and with smaller groups. But the propose of free community college could guarantee a maximum number of students per class as well as a minimum of basic classes offered each semester, so that it really benefits the students. This means that Kelly’s concerns are unwarranted.

The proposal would make higher education as accessible as high school education, in order to boost the weak salaries in the United States and develop skills for the modern workforce. In order to take advantage of the program, students should be enrolled full-time, have an average GPA of 2.5 and maintain a productive record in class. This will show that the students are interested and that they are making progress in their studies. Although the proposal raises concerns about how the tuition of thousands of students would be paid, its promoters hope that this legislation will have a positive impact on the economy of the states. In the near future, the education of the workforce will increase with certificates, associate’s degrees, and university degrees.

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