why isn’t education free in america
1. Education is a commodity, not a right
- Education is a commodity, not a right
An education is a privilege, not a right. Throughout history, people have had to pay for education services—whether it was in the form of tuition payments, slave labor on college plantations or community support through taxes. In America, we’re lucky enough to have one of the best educational systems in the world because we’ve invested time and money into building it.
2. American universities are private corporations
Languages are some of the most important tools you can have in life. You can travel with them, navigate new cultures, and avoid being dependent on a translator. When it comes to business deals, you are able to string together an argument yourself and not have to rely on another person’s interpretation of your words or ideas. You can also read books yourself instead of relying on someone else’s translation.
Learning a language has become quite fashionable no matter where you go, but just as I’ve mentioned before—there is a difference between doing something for fashion’s sake and doing something for substance’s sake—there is also a difference between learning a language out of necessity and learning one for pleasure. Learning English is very much the same way nowadays: it’s fashionable to know how to speak English no matter where you go, but there are different motivations behind why people want to learn English depending on their circumstances.
3. The government doesn’t fund the way it used to
- In the 1950s, the government spent more on education, and education was funded by the federal government.
- The government used to fund a much higher percentage of education than it does now.
- The federal government used to fund education in the 1950s.
- In the 1950s, the federal government used to fund education more than they do now.
4. Students need loans because they can’t afford college
Of course, when you’re talking about a market with so many different products and options, it can be hard to find the best choice. Let’s briefly look at some of your main options:
- Loans from friends or family: If you have this option available to you, take it. It’s the cheapest option in terms of interest rates.
- Secured loans: This is where you borrow money and use an asset (like a car) as collateral; if you fail to pay back the loan, then the lender can seize that asset. These loans tend to have lower interest rates than unsecured loans because they’re a less risky investment for lenders.
- Unsecured personal loans: This is what most people think of when they hear “personal loan”; here, there are no assets backing up the loan. Interest rates vary widely based on your creditworthiness; borrowers with very bad credit may not be able to get approved for these types of loans altogether.
5. Europe’s economic model isn’t sustainable here
- Europe’s economic model isn’t sustainable here
Europe’s public education system is highly successful, but the reason it works is complicated, and can’t be fully translated to the US. Education in Europe is free because taxes are higher there: the average European pays roughly 40% of their income in taxes. That money funds schools at every level, from pre-Kindergarten through college (and beyond). In America we pay about a quarter of our income in taxes—there just isn’t enough tax revenue to support our education system without student loans or tuition.
Even if you could somehow convince Americans to pay more than double that amount, it still wouldn’t work for one simple reason: population density. Europe has a much smaller population size than America—there are only 341 million Europeans compared to 324 million Americans. There simply aren’t as many people to make up the tax base in Europe, which means that even though they pay more per person, they don’t have as many people paying those high rates.
America is the only developed country in the world without free education.
I’ll spell it out for you: the U.S. is the only developed country in the world that does not offer free education. Yes, really.
While some people will argue that student debt isn’t as big of a problem as we make it out to be, the numbers speak for themselves:
- Student loan debt accounts for roughly 10% of all American debt
- Between 2010 and 2011 alone, student loan debt jumped eight percent
Every year, thousands of students graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and there’s no way for these people to pay their debts off without taking jobs that pay more than they ever dreamed possible. As much as many would like to believe this is a necessary evil, it isn’t—countries from Finland to Iceland provide free college education to their citizens because they consider it a fundamental right.