The years spent at university are for many people among the best of their lives. While the purpose of university is, of course, to study and get a worthwhile education, the social aspect is also a big part of the experience; for those who leave home for the first time, that’s also an important part. Should university education be free for all in 2020? The only downside is the cost, with the standard cost for tuition fees alone in the UK at a staggering £9,250 per year. Most students are going to be saddled with tens of thousands of pounds of debt when they graduate. While you don’t have to start paying the debt off until you’re earning a certain amount of money, student debt is still a form of debt that’s going to be around for many years if not decades for most graduates. Should university education be free for all?
If university were made free, then the number of people applying to go would no doubt rise. However, this would result in the degrees themselves becoming less valuable to employers. How are you meant to stand out with your degree if most other people competing for the same jobs have got degrees too? Ideally, someone who simply wants to get a better education and give themselves better job prospects shouldn’t have to be lumbered with debt they’re likely going to be spending many years paying off. Sure, it’s only a debt that affects them once they’re doing well in work, but still it’s a debt. Is it really fair to ask people who want to do well in life to put themselves in a considerable amount of debt before they’ve even started their post-university career?
Then again, charging for university keeps it competitive. It makes degrees somewhat valuable because not everyone is able to get one. There’s the argument that rising costs may put students from poorer backgrounds off, however the way the financing works, help is readily available and it’s possible to get the debt written off after so many years. In fact, only around 30% of students actually manage to pay their debt off in full. Many universities have scolarships and bursaries to help those from less well off families afford to go. If university were to be made free, the money that the universities rely on would have to come from somewhere – most likely taxes of some kind. Tax payers would end up shouldering the cost, many of whom wouldn’t even have children of their own going to university.
In an ideal world, higher education wouldn’t come with so much debt, however the money to fund it has got to come from somewhere. Plus, having university education cost money helps make it selective in that not everyone’s going to want to go. The debate on whether university should be free is complex, with relevant arguments from both sides. As things stand, it’s very unlikely that university will ever be made free, though there are many who would like to see that become a reality.