By Murray Siegel
Bernie Sanders has recommended college be free for all Americans while Hillary Clinton has opted for debt-free college. In either case, how would the costs be covered?
Most likely we would see an increase in taxes and/or the national debt. Actually, free college and debt-free college already exist with many options for students. Those who incur a large college debt that places limitations on life choices after graduation may simply have failed to make proper decisions in their college searches.
There are a handful of colleges that are free for all students. College of the Ozarks (Missouri) and Berea College (Kentucky) are free, but students are required to earn that benefit by working for the college. Alice Lloyd College (Kentucky) is free for any student living in Central Appalachia, and The Webb Institute is a free engineering college in New York. There are five outstanding universities where all costs are covered – they are the military academies: West Point, Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, Merchant Marine Academy and Coast Guard Academy.
Beyond the limited number of free schools, there are many ways for a student to attend college without having to borrow money. A student who has performed well in high school will find numerous merit-based scholarships available. Since many private colleges are interested in geographic diversity, a student with excellent grades from Arizona may have a better chance to win a scholarship at a school in Georgia or Connecticut than a school in or near Arizona.
There are all sorts of scholarships available for students who meet special requirements. I have had students offered scholarships because:
• a parent served on a nuclear sub
• a grandparent worked in the shoe industry
• the student’s ethnicity
• the student attended a Methodist church
• the student agreed to major in pulpwood/paper engineering
There are also ROTC scholarships good at most universities that pay tuition, fees and books, as well as offering a monthly stipend.
What about the student who did not do that well in high school? Some colleges have work-study programs where a student alternates between attending classes one semester and working full-time the next. The jobs are generally related to the student’s field of study and pay enough to cover the next semester’s costs.
Then there are the community colleges where costs are generally lower than at a four-year school. The student can live at home, saving money and work part-time during the school year and full-time in the summer, thus saving enough funds to pay for the final two years at a university. Finally, a student could enlist in a military service, earn enough to build up a savings account, and then receive payments via the GI Bill once the military commitment has been met and the individual attends college.
It would appear the only ones who would benefit from free or debt-free college are those unwilling to work hard in high school and unwilling to do what it takes to get university education without borrowing money. Why should taxpayers help them?
Murray Siegel is a Maricopa resident. He has a doctorate in Math Ed and 42 years of teaching experience. He and his wife Sharon are volunteer teachers of advanced math classes at Butterfield Elementary School.
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