Should University Education be Free?

By Alif Imran Bin Ahmad

Free university education would benefit society, not just students. It would result in a more educated and productive workforce. At the same time, a rise in the number of graduates and researchers would imply an increase in innovation and productivity. The cost of attending university is rising faster than the rate of inflation making it a problem for students.

When it comes to attending university, millions of students face financial constraints. The affordability of university education, and the current student debt crisis, are important things to consider. There are numerous reasons why university education should be free as education is an important part of life.

The existence of free university education is extremely beneficial for students. There are countries that have implemented this system. They charge extra taxes to finance university education and thus, provide it for free. This will be beneficial for students but it will increase the tax burden on society. On the other hand, universities can find ways to save money so as to provide free education. Student loans are frequently one of the first major financial transactions that students face. Paying them off on time demonstrates that you understand how to manage your finances well, which is a skill that people usually use when purchasing cars or houses. The need to financially manage university fees would not exist if students did not have to pay for them in the first place.

The simple reason for making higher education free is to promote equality. Many intelligent students from low-income households may be unable to afford university tuition costs, which is unjust. We have seen examples of intelligent students that are unable to attend university because they are impoverished, but rich individuals are able to do so because their parents are wealthy enough to pay their tuition. This is unfair to students from low-income homes who are capable yet cannot afford education. If university education were free, all students would be able to attend, and acceptance would be based on merit rather than income. Many students take out loans provided by PTPTN (National Higher Education Fund Corporation) and MARA (Amanah Rakyat Council) to finance their university education and life. However, they will be burdened by this loan in the future as they must repay it once they begin working. If the government does not change the academic financial system, this cycle will never cease for students.

Also, there are some students who drop out because they are unable to pay for all four years of tuition. Making university education free would eliminate the reason for not being able to graduate. This would also help to increase college graduation rates because fewer students would feel compelled to drop to part-time status or discontinue their education for financial reasons. Graduates with debt will have lower incomes in the later years of their working life. To borrow for college is to take a risk. indebted students may not earn enough to repay their loans after they graduate or, worse, may fail to graduate at all for students who cannot pay for college without borrowing. This risk is both a disincentive and a penalty. They may also experience poorer educational outcomes, with effects on earning power and, then, later wealth accumulation. 

Higher education is considered in the United States not only as a good in itself but also as a means to greater economic security and as the principal lever for economic mobility. Examining student loans through this lens highlights the long-term, volatile, and sometimes concealed consequences of student loan dependency, raising the stakes for considering alternate ways to higher education financing. The negative consequences of student loans continue even after graduation, as graduates with student debt have no quicker wage growth in subsequent years and show no signs of catching up on repaying their debts. 

Graduating debt-free, on the other hand, may improve people’s abilities to earn, save, and spend. This contributes to the economy’s development. Demand rises in tandem with consumer expenditure. More demand for products and services means more people will join the labour market or there will be more job openings. As a result, a virtuous economic circle emerges. Furthermore, pupils who are terrified of being in debt may choose to skip school altogether. If debt were not a concern, the younger generation would be considerably more motivated to go to school.

Colleges and universities can take a number of specific steps. These begin with recognising and owning the problem, as well as involving the entire university community—governance boards, faculty, staff, administrators, and students—in studying, addressing, and solving the problem. This coordinated effort raises the awareness of the problem’s significance as well as the institutional commitment to address it. This is, however, a process that is not without its difficulties and drawbacks. Some may be concerned that a debate about costs that captures the attention of not only present students and their parents but also potential students, would have an influence on enrolment. 

Therefore, I would like to emphasize that free university education is very important for this country as it can promote equal access to education and reduce students’ debts. Thus the government should pay more attention to the issue of charging for university education to ensure a brighter future for the next generation.***

(Alif Imran Bin Ahmad is a student from Kulliyyah of Economic and Management Sciences (KENMS). The article is part of the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ course. The views expressed here are those of the writer/author and do not necessarily represent the views of IIUMToday,)

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