A word with four letters, many interpretations, and something that divides political parties. Free. Such a tiny word, yet it holds such great implications. What is free, then? It is defined many ways, such as: enjoying personal rights or liberty, independent, able to do something at will, to disengage or to clear, or without charge. But when you get down to it... is anything actually free?
Everyone has the right and opportunity to make decisions for themselves and to enjoy their personal rights or liberty. With that being said, it doesn't mean that people get to have a disengaged or clear paths without any charge. One of my favorite quotes, from Thomas Edison, is "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." If everyone is given a clear path without any obstacles, what does that teach? If everything was easy, wouldn't everyone do it? What would set me apart from others in life, on a résumé, in a career, as a woman, wife, future mother, and sister?
Something that has weighed heavily on my mind is the fact that most millennials are hoping, and voting, for free college tuition. What does free college tuition actually do for society as a whole, and not just for the individual? It may make a student debt free, but free tuition as a whole could "cost the United States $70 billion per year," according to Fox News. If you aren't paying for your classes, then who is? Where is that $70 billion coming from? Taxpayers.
If college becomes free, that means more people going to college. Which in theory sounds wonderful! Everyone should have the opportunity to go to school if they so desire. But I have always been told that if something sounds too good to be true then it probably is, and that is definitely the case with free college tuition. If more people go to college, the value of a college degree will decrease. A Huffington Post article in support of free college actually stated that a college education is essentially equivalent to a high school education of previous generations. Well if that is true, then what will the value of a degree be when even more people have it? It is simply the law of supply and demand. If a college degree is at the value of a high school diploma now, when it becomes free that would make it equivalent to, maybe, junior high.
Students would get a free bachelor's degree, but in order to set themselves apart, they would need to continue on with graduate school. Oh wait... students already have to do that! How would free college help the societal issue we are already facing of students graduating only to discover they have to do more school? Free tuition would only make this issue drastically worse.
Free things are usually things that no one wants, am I right? You get free koozies, free cheap sunglasses, free beach balls, free flyers and pamphlets, and you can find free, gross furniture on the sides of the road. These things are all things that people are trying to get rid of, hence why they are free. You don't walk into the mall to get a brand new Sony TV for free. You walk in there with your money in hand, money that you worked hard for, to purchase it. College is the same way. You can't just show up expecting something great without working in order to obtain it.
College is hard. Whether you are an art major, science major, economics major or education major, it doesn't matter. College is hard work. You spend endless nights studying and panicking and writing those term papers because you know those things determine your future. You work hard in college because it is important to you. You work hard because it isn't free. If college were free, students would become nonchalant about their work and their grades. If all those credits were free, students wouldn't worry about working hard for them because they can just get some more, right? I mean, when you break those cheap sunglasses, you don't stress because you can just go get some other ones.
I know people that are in debt because of their desire to go to college. They want the degree at the end because they want a better life for themselves and their families. What happens to that person when college becomes free? What happens to the debt they have already incurred while trying to take care of children, work a full-time job, and be a husband or wife? They worked for that degree, paid money for that degree, and you're telling me someone else can just come in who didn't put nearly as much time, effort, or money into their degree and get the same outcome. In the end, who do you think would be the better employee or boss, someone who worked hard and is proud of what they did, or someone that had it handed to them?
College isn't something that is nonchalant. If someone truly has a desire to go to school, then there are ways to make it happen. There are scholarships, federal financial aid if you qualify, internships, part-time jobs, even part-time and distance-learning degrees. The options are all there. At the same time, college shouldn't be something that is forced on people! If college becomes free, then everyone will feel obligated that they have to go due to the obstacles being removed from their paths. With more and more people going to college, what happens to the technical schools, the blue-collar jobs? If everyone is a doctor or a teacher, who is the plumber, the welder, the farmer, the mechanic? There is already such a negative connotation surrounding blue-collar, hardworking jobs, but in reality, these hardworking, undervalued people are who make the world go 'round! When something happens to my car, or my A/C, or my plumbing, I call someone who knows how to fix it. We don't need to make everyone think they have to have a college education to have a great job, a great payout, and a great life.
Forcing college on people and deeming it free to get more people with degrees not only hurts our society and economy, but it hurts individuals as well. If you believe in free college tuition, that is great! I'm sure you have your reasons, just as I have mine. Student debt has its own weight as well, but if a student picks a degree in a field that offers a great job market, scholarships, and opportunities for employment or graduate schooling then the debt wouldn't be such a hindrance.
I may not always like to work, but I do like overalls, and if together they are going to set me apart as an individual, then work is what I will do.