The Cost of Free College

By Sam Sherrill

The possibility of free college tuition became a hot topic during last year’s presidential election, drawing large support from college age students. This week’s Pizza & Politics gave SUU students the opportunity to share their opinions on the matter.

The discussion opened with students weighing in on who would benefit most from free tuition. Many felt that the students coming from lower income families and backgrounds would benefit more because many students would otherwise not be able to attend a four year university. However, the point was raised that it would actually be those attending the most expensive universities who would benefit the most, as they would be getting a higher quality education tuition free.

Some students felt that the quality of education in general would fall because of the lack of incentive, for both institutions as well as students. They claimed that institutions would be less inclined to provide a quality education and students would be less motivated because they were not paying out of pocket costs. Acceptance requirements were used to counter the idea of a declining quality of education. One student suggested that universities wouldn’t lower standards simply because tuition was free to the students.

The question of who would pay for this “free” tuition was also asked. The senate bill introduced in April 2017 by Senator Bernie Sanders suggested that the federal government would cover two-thirds of the cost with states making up the rest. Some students felt that putting additional pressure on states would force them to look to the federal government anyway and would increase the already massive national debt.

Still others felt that it was the government’s responsibility to subsidize high education. One student suggested that increasing the number of those that received a higher education would help eliminate racism and help close the gap between the upper, middle and lower classes.

The suggestion was made that Utah should follow in the footsteps of states such as Florida and introduce a lottery. In states such as Florida, a portion of the revenue made from the lottery is put back into the education system by ways of scholarships, grants, etc.

The conversation then shifted to student fees, and how they are allocated within institutions. Many students felt it would be beneficial if students had some amount of control as to where their specific fees were being spent. Students seemed to like the idea of their money being spent on services, resources and activities that they themselves are interested in rather than have the university spend their fees where they deem fit.

At the end of the discussion, several students reminded their peers that there are ways to have a say in where your money is spent. Getting involved with SUUSA is a great way to give input and feedback about almost everything involving students on campus. Students agreed that it is up to the individual to make sure they are informed and involved with organizations and causes that they care about.

Pizza & Politics is held every Wednesday at 12 p.m. in the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service located in the Sharwan Smith Student Center.


By Lily Shurtleff