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Nonfiction in response to Quality Education
April 2018
By Karen Wu
Graphic Credit: Christina Zhao

Over the years, the United States has gradually created the public school system, which allows even children from indigent families to receive education. But now it’s time to take another step forward by making college more accessible. College should be free for people who are below a certain family income line, while those who above that income line should receive reduced cost depending on their family income. There should be a required GPA that students receiving financial aid must meet. In order to pay for this, we could lower our military spending.


But why is college so important? Do people need to go to college?


The answer is that their best bet on having a successful life is to go to college and get some form of a degree. An analysis of Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington found that on average in 2013, Americans with a four-year college degrees earned 98% more than Americans without a college degree. Analysts for the IRS found that by 2020, approximately 45% of all jobs in the US would require a college degree. A line from an article on the NEA by Max Page and Dan Clawson sums this up well: “A century ago high school was becoming a necessity, not a luxury; today the same is happening to college.”


Despite the fact that college is huge in having a successful life, not all people have access to it because of the economic barrier. Deborah Santiago wrote for the New York Times, "in conversation after conversation with Latino students and their parents, the cost of college is raised as a barrier to access and completion.” Alduha Leon, a college student who dropped out of college because of cost issues, said on an article in The Atlantic, “Not having money and just the whole school thing like, man, it was so stressful. If I don’t have to be in debt, I won’t. I’d just rather do something else.”


If the government made it easier for students to go to college, there would be many benefits. Reducing (or getting rid of) the cost for college would ease the financial burden on students, giving them better access to basic necessities such as food and good housing. Also, if the students didn’t have to worry so much about money, then they would be able to focus more on their studies. Society will benefit from this too. If graduates didn’t need to pay off student loans, then they would be able to contribute more to the economy. Also, it would help create a larger and more-skilled workforce.


While the plan outlined earlier may sound hard to accomplish, a plan similar to that has worked before. The Kalamazoo Promise is a plan in which private donors pay for qualifying students’ college fees in Kalamazoo, Michigan. There are several requirements. The student must be going to a university in Michigan and currently live within the boundaries of the Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS). For those who get 100% of their college tuition paid, they must have been in the KPS for all of their high school years (9th-12th grade). Those who have been in the KPS can have up to 65% of their tuition paid. They have 10 years from high school graduation to use the scholarship and while in college, the students must maintain of GPA of at least 2.0. There are no high school GPA requirements.


The results for this have been stunning, as shown by a study done by Timothy J. Bartik, Brad J. Hershbein, and Marta Lachowska for the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Their data ranged was from 2003 to 2013. The student found that the Kalamazoo Promise “increased the chance of students enrolling in any college within six months of high school graduation by 14 percent, and the chance of students enrolling in a four-year college by 23 percent.” It was also found that the Promise increased the chances of students earning any postsecondary credential from 36% to 46%.


There is some criticism for the idea of free college. Some people may say that there will be people who don’t work hard and take advantage of the system, but a GPA requirement will solve that issue. Others have said that the college students may still have debt—however, that debt will be far less and much more manageable. Still others may be worried about the cost—after all, they don’t want taxes to be raised. But we could just reduce how much we spend on military. In 2016, the US spent around $597 billion (according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies). To put it in perspective, that’s almost as much as the next top 14 countries put together, and far more than the rest of the world combined. Surely money could be spared to educate America’s workforce and reduce social inequality.


Education is one of the most vital things in securing a person’s future. We must strive to make it as equal, fair, and accessible as possible.

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