Higher education for all

Anna Jackson, Staff Writer

As school starts back, students are still feeling the sting of paying their costly tuition bills. FMU has a low tuition rate, but it is still a struggle for young adults to cover a bill of thousands of dollars. Scholarships and grants only go so far, and when they are not enough, many students are forced to take out loans.

After working hard to earn their degree, students graduate only to realize that they have large and looming debts that must be paid. Even with lower interest rates and a six-month grace period, student loan payments can strain the budget of a new working professional.

I am entering my junior year of college with roughly $10,000 in student loans, and this is only my undergraduate career. Finishing my undergraduate degree and attending graduate school will put me even further in debt. This means that I must get a job, get settled and start making payments to my loan company within six months of graduation. No pressure.

Students do not always get hired straight out of college. Once I do land a job in my profession, I have to start handing over a sizeable portion of my paycheck to a loan company. That is not exactly the future I planned out when I decided to go to college.

In recent months, President Barack Obama has been working towards making the tuition for community colleges free to those who qualify. This is a step in the right direction, but it is only a step. Student loan debt is stressful for most college students and graduates; therefore, all higher education tuition should be free or reduced for community colleges, four-year universities and graduate programs.

Free higher education is a policy already in affect in Europe. Students who are citizens of a nation within the European Union are charged little to no tuition. One reason that tuition rates are lower is because of taxpayer’s money. If this is done in Europe, what is stopping it from happening in the U.S.?

Lowering the cost to attend college has been a hot topic among candidates running in the 2016 presidential race. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among the candidates who are standing against high tuition and student loans. Sanders wants to introduce legislation that would make attending public universities free. Lowering or eliminating tuition cost would not only give relief to those attending college, but it would make getting a higher education possible for many others.

Making tuition more affordable will not hurt the economy. If a person is able to attend college and secure a professional position, that person will be able to pay higher taxes, live off of their own income and will have more money to put back into the economy rather than if they were working in an unskilled or part-time position.

College is supposed to be a time in which students expand their knowledge, make lifelong memories and prepare to start their future. Students should not have to stress about paying a high tuition bill to keep from being dropped from their classes. They should not have to hinder their future by accumulating thousands of dollars in student debt. These things prevent college from being the experience that it should be. This is why higher education, in all its forms, should be free or at least more affordable. It is time to make education about training the next generation and not about profit.