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Countries offering free college education include:
- Czech Republic
- United Arab Emirates
Many of these countries offer free graduate school, too.
Slovenia gives foreigners free college, even Americans, and plenty of classes are taught in English.
These countries have nearly free college:
And many other countries have cheap rates.
- England limits the cost of college and after you graduate, you don’t have to pay anything on your college loans until your income reaches $35,000 a year.
- Even then you only pay 9% of your income.
- After 30 years, if you haven’t been able to pay your college loan, England cancels the debt.
Our History of Free College
The democratic notion of free college education, offering equal opportunity to all, has a long history in America.
- Thomas Jefferson created our first free college system, the University of Virginia.
- By the mid-1850s, many people understood giving farmers and working class people a college education would help make our country great.
- Abraham Lincoln massively expanded the free college system with 54 land-grant universities providing free tuition and subsidized rail travel. They even admitted women and black people.
- Throughout much of the 1900s, both state systems and even private universities provided college education at a low cost.
- Our GI Bill of 1944, paying college expenses plus a living allowance to all military veterans, was a spectacular success, giving our economy up to an 800% return on our investment.
- During the 1950s and 1960s, many states invested in the future by offering their residents completely free college.
In 1965 in America, the averge tuition at 4-year public universities was just $243.
During the 1960s and 1970s, you could pay for a year of college by working in a factory or mill for 3 months.
In the last 30 years, the average tuition at 4-year public colleges has risen by 250% while average family income has only risen 16%.
- Since 1987, states have cut funding for colleges by about 44%, often while cutting taxes on the rich.
Our system of Pell grants for any college and easy credit for students lets colleges
- constantly raise tuition
- pay multi-million dollar salaries to coaches and college presidents
- pay six-figure salaries to university administrators
- build fancy buildings, swimming pools, gyms with rock walls, and dormitories
We Spend Far More Helping the Rich Go to College than Others
Our government spends far more helping the rich go to college than the average person.
- For example, the annual government subsidy for a student at Princeton University is about $54,000 per student, while the average subsidy for a student at a public university is less than $4,000.
- Federal money from taxpayers provides over 40% of the budget of private universities.
- Federal tuition tax credits and other tax benefits cost our government $37 billion each year, more than we spend on Pell grants, but mostly benefit higher-income students who would have gone to college anyway.
- Our expensive private elite colleges also receive about $550 billion of dollars in contributions from wealthy people who get tax deductions for their donations.
Over the last decade, colleges and universities have spent over $1 billion on lobbying to escape regulation and keep things the same.
We Already Spend Enough for Free College
Government studies show we are already spending far more money in grants, aid, loans, and tax breaks for higher education than is needed to make all public universities and community colleges free.
- In 2017, all our public colleges charged $75.8 billion in tuition and fees.
- In 2017, our government spent $160 billion helping people go to college with student loans, grants, and tax breaks.
Clearly, our current patchwork of financial aid greatly favors the rich. It would be far more democratic and fair to just make all our public colleges free.
This would also pressure private universities to reduce their costs to compete.
States & Cities Are Stepping Up
Understanding the importance of equal opportunity, 24 states have established programs to make two years of community college free for local residents.
These programs generally require
- recent high school or GED graduation
- a minimum grade point average or GED score
- qualifying as a low- or middle-income family
- first qualifying for and receiving a federal Pell Grant
Some states only allow free tuition for certain approved fields of study. Some states require living and working in the state for a specific period of time after graduation.
Other states are working on developing similar programs.
New York is the only state with a program to make tuition free for both 2- and 4-year college programs.
Approximately 200 cities or counties in the US offer young residents free tuition to local community colleges and technical schools, including:
- San Francisco
- Ann Arbor
- over 50 cities in California
Free College, Vocational Training, & Apprenticeships
We should expand these policies nationwide. Anyone who demonstrates the self-discipline to get above average grades in high school should have access to free college, as long as they continue good performance.
And we should give other students and workers the skills they need for jobs with
- free vocational training
- more apprenticeship programs
Countries like Germany, China, Sweden, and Singapore have created thriving manufacturing sectors by letting corporations help design educational programs.
We should do that, too.
Plenty of research shows the benefits of college for our society are many times greater than the costs.
The same is true of vocational and apprenticeship skilled trade training programs and they cost far less than college.
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