University Should Be Free Essay Online

Essay about University Education Should Be Free

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Independent.Leadership.Equality. All of these are three characteristics as to what free university education can provide to citizens.Higher education should be free of charge for the citizens of the United States.In the US the average cost for colleges per year is $8,893. Many middle class and under class people cannot afford such costs. It is true that the government will give you grants but most of the time students never get funding from them (Emmons 3). Most people of today can hardly afford a car let alone the fees and tuition of college. Also, it could provide equality to all people. Allowing everyone an equal opportunity to go to college and make something of themselves. It provides a way for poorer families to break free from…show more content…

Instead, citizens should be paid to go to college because they are going there to better themselves as citizens of the United States. Making new experiences for each individual is important. No one will enjoy the experience if they have crushing debts to worry about. Education should be out there to inspire peoples mind and not just filling their head with others perspective. Every individual has the right to learn and be educated, and have the opportunity to view this world in a different perspective and do something on their own. But the cost of education is so unaffordable to some mankinds that it is just ferocious for them to even consider paying those education bills off” (“Should Higher Free Education Should Be Offered to All for Free?” 4). If students were not stressed out over the cost, they could then focus they’re stress on leaning and getting educated. A student should only have to worry about exceling him or herself to their best ability without worrying about the price they have to pay to get their education.
A public university is supposed to be meant for everybody but only those who can actually afford the price can actually go to it (Brady 4). Which therefore means that the government can’t call a university public if it not actually public (Brady 4). According to Brady Aaron,” When the roads that drive our economy and make modern life possible get too crowded or too congested, we expect the state to

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The advocacy of free education, no tuition fees, may appear at first sight as irrational and ideologically driven – especially in the age of ‘neoliberal consensus’ where market forces are revered and the prosperity of private capital and financiers is sanctified.

There is no question that advocacy of free education is ideologically driven, as far as believing access to higher education should not be contingent on parental income, background, ethnicity, or gender, and as far as believing it is an excellent pathway to reduce inequality in the long term and foster a more prosperous, cohesive society. However, while principles of justice and equality should indeed guide policy making, neither these principles nor the popular slogan “education is a basic right” automatically imply publicly funded tuition fees. This short essay thus intends to give a defence of free education predicated on economic arguments.

The (im)practicality of loans.

Across advanced capitalist western economies, student loans are becoming increasingly common. According to data from the Department of Education in the UK, 48 percent of pupils from state schools go to university as opposed to 90 percent from private schools (7 percent of the total population). This is the premise on which the argument in favour of tuition fees rests: further education is regressive on the taxpayer (the poor subsidise the education of the rich), and there are huge private financial benefits from education, therefore it makes sense for individuals to bear a significant part of the cost of their education.

While there may be a certain theoretical basis for tuition fees, practically, financial experts anticipate that 73 percent of UK students will never repay their loans, even including those who secure work in respectable professions (Garner, 2014). Countries with similar systems like the US and Australia also report similar problems (Barr, 2013, p. 318). Unlike mortgages, student loans have no physical collateral, where the bank can expropriate the house or where assets can be sold to pay for debt. There is also an adverse selection problem. It is impossible to know whether the student borrower will be able to get and keep a job that will pay for a loan after university. With low growth and increasing job insecurity, the prospects for students to repay debts are stark.  This raises the question of whether tuition fees even help ‘to balance the budget’ of governments committed to austerity.

Tuition as a problem in itself.

Even operating under the assumptions that the loan system works and that tuition fees have no impact on social mobility, improvements in information to the least advantaged do not address the complexity of the issue. Firstly, there are obvious sizeable opportunity costs of spending three years or more in education for people from low income backgrounds, as these are years of foregone income earning. With student grants recently withdrawn and the moves towards lifting the tuition fees cap in the UK, information obstacles can be but a smaller nuisance for poor families’ accessing education (Streeting, 2015; Shaw, 2015).

Secondly, research has found that the poor tend to be more debt averse, meaning they are less likely to buy into the loan regime. Debt is also found to be detrimental to mental health and the well being of students, particularly those of low income backgrounds (Abdallah, 2010). Since this world is still painfully dealing with the effects of the 2008 economic crisis, with most crises circumnavigating around bubbles of unsustainable debt, debt aversion is certainly not something we should be seeking to correct.

Finally, it is believed  by psychologists that activities that are seen as intrinsic (doing something because it fulfils you as an individual) leads to better outcomes than activities that are extrinsic (in order to obtain financial remuneration or gain status)(Abdallah, 2010). The commodification of education through tuition is a threat not only to people’s intrinsic motivations, as they put jobs in finance and ‘well paid’ jobs above their real interests and passions, but to the purpose of education as a whole. Martin Luther King rightly argued that more than serving an instrumental purpose, education should be the medium through which we grow morally and where we clarify our central convictions as human beings (Luther King Jr., 1947).  

Free education is of course not a panacea for equality of opportunity and a fairer society, and in isolation is still highly regressive. It has to be part of a holistic drive to address inequalities across the social system and early stages of the education system (Lawlor et al., 2011, p.6).

Rather than shaping the education system to increasingly look like a market, it should be shaped to become more accessible, democratic, and fulfilling for people from all incomes, races and backgrounds. A free, meaningful education is within our reach, we only have to be prepared to fight for it.




I believe that higher education is a right. I believe that it produces positive externalities for society as a whole and that the ideal higher education funding system is one of equality of opportunity. This is why I believe higher education should not be free.

This article focuses on addressing 3 common misconceptions about what the rationale for free higher education is and what it implies: 1) the idea that higher education can be free; 2) the notion that tuition fees prevent low-income students from accessing tertiary education; 3) the thought that, under the current HE funding system, graduates will crumble under unmanageable amounts of debt.

Addressing common myths about free HE

HE can be free

What does free higher education mean? Is it a system in which we ask academics and professional staff to work for free? Of course not. Free higher education refers to the taxpayer taking the full burden of the costs of higher education. In such a funding scheme, whether one attends university or not, one subsidises higher education through taxes. The question we need to ask ourselves is who should be paying for higher education?

The benefits of HE are twofold: there is a substantial private benefit for the student attending HE, and a social benefit, which economists call ‘positive externality’, from having an highly educated population. The net present value of the private benefit – that is the ‘discounted’ long-term economic advantage of having a degree instead of a secondary education, minus the associated costs – is estimated in the UK to be at £168,000 for men and £252,000 for women (Walker and Zhu, 2013). Society at large benefits from positive externalities through extra tax revenue (£89,000 extra per individual who gets a university degree) (BIS, 2013).

This should lead debates on HE funding to focus on the fairness and efficiency of different cost-sharing schemes between the state and the student.

Free HE would help students from low-income backgrounds

In 2010, the Sutton Trust (2010) reported that 16 percent of pupils who claim free school meals entered higher education compared to 96 percent of independent school pupils. Jake Anders (2012) found that children born in the top income quintile group are three times more likely to attend university than those born in the bottom quintile. In other words, the better off your family the greater the likelihood that you will attend university. This means that, in a system in which higher education would be fully tax-funded, 84 percent of the families with children who claim free school meals will essentially be subsidising the cost of the higher education of those children from wealthier families. Economists call such a system ‘regressive’ and in fact, it has been documented that before the introduction of fees in the UK in 1998, the HE system was indeed regressive and did little to help those who were at the bottom of society (Mishkin and Straub, 2014).  

A related point on this matter is that there is no evidence that the level of tuition fees leads to lower access to HE. In the past ten years the entry rate for the most disadvantaged students has increased by 72%, and the university entry ratio between the most advantaged relative to most disadvantaged students declined from 4.37 to 2.77 (Carr, 2014). Interestingly, Filipa Sá has found in her recent research that despite the tripling of fees in the UK, students from ethnic minorities “were actually less affected by the increase,” and that “there is no evidence that attendance has decreased more among students from local authorities with lower rates of participation in higher education” (Sá, 2015).

The burden of debt is too great for students to shoulder and is responsible for lower application rates

As we saw previously, the net private benefit to students is greatly larger than the amount of debt they incur. However, these are average figures, meaning that some students will end up getting a better return while others will not. Ingeniously, under the current HE funding system, those students who will not reap much monetary advantage from HE will not find themselves in trouble because they cannot pay back their debt.

Picture a typical student in a 3-year undergraduate program costing £9,000 per year. Once she has graduated, her debt-load will be around £35,000 – £40,000 (Boursnell, 2015). At first sight you might think the student has an unmanageable burden. However our student only repays, each year, 9% of what she earns above £21,000, which means that if she earns less than the £21,000 threshold she does not repay anything that year, The median graduate is expected by the IFS to repay, in net present terms, £26,731 (Chowdry et al.,2012, Table 4). This number is surely not insignificant, but it should be compared to the benefits the student gets from having a degree. Once we do so, it does not appear unreasonable.


References – YES 

Abdallah, S. (2010) “Government in terrible debt? Let’s pass it on to the students.” Available: [Accessed 5th September, 2015]

Barr, N. A. (2012). Economics of the Welfare State. Oxford: OUP Oxford.

Department for Education (2013), “Statistical First Release, Destinations of Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 Pupils, 2010/11” Available:
[Accessed 5th September, 2015]

Garner, R. (2015), “Tuition fees: Three quarters of students won’t be able to pay off their debt.” Available: [Accessed 5th September, 2015]

Luther King Jr, M. (1948) “The Purpose of Education.” Available: [Accessed 5th September, 2015]

Shaw, C. (2015) “Maintenance grants scrapped and tuition fees to increase – your reaction.” Available: [Accessed 5th September, 2015]

Stone, J. (2015) “Jeremy Corbyn: Scrap tuition fees and give students grants again, says Labour leadership contender”. Available: [Accessed 5th September, 2015]

Streeting, W. (2015) “Buy now, pay later as student grants become loans.” Available: [Accessed 5th September, 2015]

Webb, R., et al (2008) AS Level Sociology AQA. Brentwood: Napier Press


References – NO

Department For Business, Innovation And Skills (2013), “The Impact of University Degrees on the Lifecycle of Earnings: Some Further Analysis”, BIS Research Paper 102 (2013): Government of the United Kingdom, Aug. 2013. Web.

Department For Business, Innovation And Skills (2013), “The Benefits of Higher Education Participation for Individuals and Society: key findings and reports “The Quadrants”” BIS Research Paper 146 (2013): Government of the United Kingdom, Web.

Higher Education Academy (2015), “The HEPI-HEA 2015 Student Academic Experience Survey.” HEPI-HEA. Web.

Anders, Jake (2012), “What’s the Link between Household Income and Going to University?”, DoQSS Working Paper 12-01 (2012), Mar. 2012. Web.

Mishkin, Elizabeth, and John Straub (2014), “The Redistributive Effects of British Subsidies to Higher Education.” Social Policy and Society13.03: 337-55. Social Policy and Society. Cambridge University Press, Web.

Carr, Daniel (2014), “Higher Fees Don’t Mean Fewer Working Class Students – Look at the UK for Proof”, The Guardian, 27 May 2014. Web.

Sá, Filipa (2015), “What Happens to Student Applications When University Tuition Fees Go Up?”, IZA Newsroom, 15 May 2015. Web.

Boursnell, Peter (2015), “How Much Debt Will You Actually Get into by Going to University?”, Which? University, 17 Feb. 2015. Web.

Chowdry, Haroon, and Lorraine Dearden (2012), “Higher Education Funding Reforms in England*.” Fiscal Studies 33.2 (2012): 211-36. May 2012. Web.


is a 3rd year BSc Political Economy student at King’s College London. He is also a political campaigner, a libertarian socialist, and a students’ union representative.


is a graduated in BA International Politics from King’s College London in 2015 and is now pursuing a Masters in Human Resources at Birkbeck University. He is a former President of King’s Think Tank.




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