By Margot Rathke
After graduating from college last year, Hayat Rahmeto moved back in with her parents and planned to work two jobs to save money for law school. Then the pandemic hit. She lost one job, with Delta Airlines, and the prospects for finding another were bleak.
Fortunately, with her parents providing rent-free housing, Rahmeto realized she could afford to attend her local community college in Omaha, Nebraska, where she’s now working on a paralegal certificate program.
It will cost Rahmeto about $6,000. “This is the cheapest, most cost effective way to find out if law school is what I really want to do with my life,” Rahmeto told me.
Youth unemployment is sky-high, reaching over 20 percent for people aged 16 to 24 this June. Like Rahmeto, many other recent graduates may decide to continue their education instead of entering the job market.
But not all will have access to rent-free housing or a spare $6,000 for community college—nevermind the skyrocketing cost of traditional universities.
According to a 2018 study from the Levy Institute, the average cost of college tuition more than doubled as a share of median household income between 1990 and 2014. Including room and board, the average cost of college is more than a third of a typical household’s earnings.
This helps explain today’s aggregate student loan debt of $1.6 trillion.
These high costs are especially problematic for poor communities and people of color like Rahmeto, who make up a far larger share of heavily indebted borrowers than their share of the student population.
With few jobs available under the current crisis, it’s even more important to eliminate the financial barriers to continuing education.
Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed a College for All plan that would eliminate tuition and fees at public four-year colleges, universities, and community colleges. Additionally, it would cancel student debt for 45 million Americans within six months and ensure low-income students can attend college debt-free.
Free college proposals have received support from a growing number of organizations, including the Poor People’s Campaign.
In a “Moral Budget” proposal released with the Institute for Policy Studies, they point out that these investments benefit the whole country — not just students. One California study they cite found that for every $1 invested in public colleges and universities, the state gained $4.50 due to reduced poverty, fewer arrests and incarcerations, and higher tax revenues.
Making college free for all students would also help erase the stigma of financial aid. Rahmeto, who was born in the United States to Ethiopian immigrant parents, said she often felt other students looked down on her for having financial aid as an undergraduate at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
“It’s like, what, I’m sorry I wasn’t born into a life where my parents could afford to pay 60-some thousand dollars a year,” she said. “But why am I any less deserving than you? I worked even harder to get where I am now.”
Even before the pandemic, the exorbitant cost of higher education was holding our country back. That’s especially true now. Free college would allow young people who cannot find jobs now to learn new skills and knowledge that will better position them to join the labor market once the crisis is over.
Margot Rathke is a Next Leader at the Institute for Policy Studies.
what a generation everything for free .don’t work for it like we did Bernie Sander’s would love it in an other county I can recomend one for him
Unfortunately, USA will be a socialist country.
Unfortunately, USA will become a socialist country.
While I agree that free college is not the solution, at the same the boomer generation is responsible for the ridiculous growth in college tuition. The fact that boomers wont retire while holding entry level jobs for lower wages because “they don’t need to work, they just need something to do.” When its impossible to procure an entry level job against a boomer with decades of work experience, one has no choice but to look for alternative methods for boosting their resume over those with one foot in the grave. That alternative is generally college. Because of that, almost every single entry level job requires experience and college. These are entry level jobs.
Which, by the way, accounted for inflation, pay over 400% less than the same job would have paid back in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
I don’t want free anything. I just want an opportunity.
mary fusco says
Gary, I’m a boomer. Who exactly wants an entry level job? Those jobs are for teens and older people. Not too many teens working these days! Mommy and Daddy just give them the credit card. Husband and I put 3 kids through college. 4th was in the military. My daughter graduated from Flagler college with a 4.0. She went to school during the day and worked 3-11 in a hotel for 4 years. Other daughter graduated from nursing school. Went to school during the day and worked at a hospital at night. 3rd daughter worked at a lawyer’s office during the day and went to school night. Bottom line is work for what you want and it becomes more valuable. I don’t regret any sacrifices we made. My kids are all successful adults. Nothing in this world is free. Someone is paying for it.
You’re confusing entry level and unskilled labor. Entry level is the predecessor of skilled labor. Unskilled labor is jobs such as waitstaff or concierges. Whereas entry level would be apprenticeship jobs, manufacturing jobs, etc. Jobs that you can start with little to no knowledge but that requires skills eventually learned on the job. Entry level jobs are absolutely necessary for uneducated and unintelligent people such as myself who should be able to sustain themselves with hard work and due diligence.
mary fusco says
Gary, don’t ever call yourself unintelligent. I’m not college educated, yet I don’t consider myself unintelligent either. My children all went to college for careers, not to just say they went or as an alternative to joining the real world. I worked from 16 to 65. Hard work always pays off and diligence always pays off in the end. Sadly, this country has raised generations of young adults sitting around waiting for someone else to pay for everything. My son didn’t go to college. He was in the Navy. He was an electrician, firefighter, search and rescue diver and did a stint as a seal. When he got out, he worked for a crappy company for a few years, learned the ropes and now has his own business in NYC. Sometimes you have to struggle to appreciate. Those given everything on a silver platter never appreciate.
Find a job that requires hard work. There are no 70 year olds with shovels in their hands.
Lyn Levan says
How’s your idea of ‘earn your own money working out for America’s youth?’ Horrible! Young people that decide to go to college to earn a better future and life are so screwed in America. They leave college so deep in debt; it will take a life to pay that debt off. Many other countries offer free education for their students that want to go on to college. What is the advantage to these societies that offer free college education? It pays back that society and then some in many ways. Society as a whole benefits when its citizens choose to work toward a college education. College graduates lower the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate for individuals with no college is more than 2 times the rate of those who at least acquire a bachelor’s degree. College graduates are also more likely to participate in other community and governmental aspects of society, such as voting and community service. Or, go to become future elected officials. We need more college graduates for our society to be successful in the future. Almost all the blue collar jobs that paid well have disappeared from the US; that is thanks to Wall Streets greed shipping all of our well paying blue collar jobs overseas to make a quick buck. College graduates are our future.
If higher education becomes FREE to anyone then all of the existing student loans should be wiped clean for everyone also. If it’s going to be FREE, it has to be FREE across the board, no picking and choosing what gets to be FREE.
Free college means a ton a clowns trying this and that with no skin in the game. They waist tax payer $ while trying to find direction in life.
Agree. Let them take loans out. If they finish their degree the college can then send the bill to the loan agency to verify the amount and pay directly.
Tax payer says
Really ? Are you kidding ?please tell me where does the money come from . This country is not a socialist country Yet , unless I missed something during all the social distancing in the last Four months .
If we stopped spending hundreds of billions of dollars on foreign aid, we could spend it on our youthful potential instead.
I agree; however, it should be spent on taking care of our Veterans who are facing mental challenges after returning home. Let’s face it, these kids today don’t know how to start a lawnmower and eat Tide pods for God’s sake. I’m not saying that are all that dumb, but there is always a better way to do things.
Don’t worry, biden will fix it all. Free, free, free! Everything free. Except for white Americans.
Bernie Sanders is wrong. Free college for everybody will become an extension of High School and a college degree will beome worth less than the paper it is printed on.
I think this is going too far! Millions paid fir their education by working, or by loans, and paid these loans back These kids have no responsibility. The democrats are the party of free , but nothing is free. Someone always pays. Many exit college with a worthless degree. They just want to go to college. Their degree will get them low pay in many instances. They don’t study which degrees are needed and the wages expected after they graduate. Next they will want free car loans, and house loans, because they financed too much for too fancy. If this is what the schools are teaching today, they are doomed to fail. If free, colleges will be filled with part time, never finishing without a degree. The good degrees are tough and these kids today can’t handle tough. America truly has lost its way.
Manatee Dreams says
Perhaps a free English course with an emphasis in grammar would help your cause. Reading this paragraph was painful for anyone who accomplished 3rd grade and thinks for his or her self. Let’s fall down the rabbit hole and talk about the if’s, don’t, and next you are speaking of because the system this government HAS created is because of the LACK of funding, cuts to programs that teach writing, grammar, critical thinking, an increased cost of everything to attend school, yet, an 18 year old is expected to flourish in this country? Attending college for you dear sir, can be equated to a manatee climbing trees. College is not everything but when trade schools are shut down and wood shop is removed because it is expendable, WTF are growing young adults supposed to do? That’s right, complain about something that is unknown to them rather than educate themselves on the subject. America was lost the minute it turned its back on its people (not sure what history lesson you may have been GIVEN for FREE in public school. I also mean people, not just the ones who came here and claimed it for themselves) for their own greater good. I’m no Sanders lover but you sir, are a clown, much like the current president, carrying around a water hose attached to no hook up. One cannot meditate in a burning country.
Who’s going to pay for it?
No free college. Make course online and force college to charge less. Free college will only cause them to charge more because they now the goverment will be paying for it . People will waist taxpayer money when it becomes free.
Gary R says
How about cutting college professors salaries to lower the costs of college tuition. How about cutting the salary of coaches! Dabo Swinney of Clemson $10,250,000, Nick Saban of Alabama $8,700,000, Jim Harbaugh of Michigan $7,504,000, etc., etc. This is ridiculous.
This, I can absolutely agree with. If we can get tuition costs in line with the previous generations then admissions would actually be a feasible opportunity. They can keep the prestigious and elite universities expensive. But state funded schools charge obscene amounts.
I totally agree! Cut down in these politically and greed driven wars and their skyrocketing costly supplies and foreign aid and help our own first.
Lets make everything free, nobody works
When you give something away for free the value has been diminished to $0
I’ve said it over and over: the government’s effort to “help” make college affordable has made it unreachable for many. The availability of financial aid simply made the universities look at students as money machines, and they raised tuition to match whatever the students could borrow or receive grants for. Students themselves have to make better choices as well. Borrowing tens of thousands of dollars for a gender studies degree, for example, is a complete waste of money. If colleges and universities get their fees under control, offer degrees with a high chance of meaningful employment, and contribute some of their multi-billion dollar endowments fairly to prospective students, then I might be onboard for tax-payer funded, lucrative degrees at state universities, community colleges, and reasonably priced private institutions for students who demonstrate an ability to succeed.
“Free college would allow young people who cannot find jobs now to learn new skills and knowledge that will better position them to join the labor market once the crisis is over.”, not true, just because you complete college along with the huge mass of college graduates, there are limited jobs in the market place. Thats why we see college graduates working in fast food restaurants, departments stores and even construction. Free college, so highly unfair to those that worked their butts off and still old a college loan, is the GOVT going to pay off those loans ?
Socialism at work, and guess who pays for these free college, we do, in one way or another. Nothing is free anywhere regardless with the Politicians tell ya.
Pierre Tristam says
So says, the loudest, the (socialist) Medicare generation that benefited from (socialist) home mortgage deductions, a $66 billion giveaway (in 2017) to those who need it least, (socialist) subsidized health care (if you get your insurance through your employer, the government subsidizes you: “It is bigger than any offered under the Affordable Care Act — subsidies some Republicans loathe as handouts — and costs the federal government $250 billion in lost tax revenue every year”), free public education, and at least a half dozen tax cuts since 1963 so we can splurge on life on credit. In comparison, even Sanders’s generous free-college plan would cost less than $50 billion, and it’d be a hell of a better investment than in overbuilt homes or bribes masked as tax cuts. So don’t tell me about who’s paying for whom, or who’s been benefiting from socialist policies most: it’s not the young. At least a free college education will give us more educated comments. Incidentally, this site, on which you spend more time than most (judging from the number of your comments) is free. At least to you.
Like I said, nothing is free. You can spin it anyway you want, Somebody pays regardless. And the $50 billion, somebody will pay for that while kids go to college for free. You want to charge a fee for this site, go for it.,
Tim B says
How can Medicare be socialist if I was forced to pay into the specific system my entire working life? It leans that way if the government ends up paying more for me than I put in but if I had been allowed to keep my money and invested it I wouldn’t need Medicare.
Dedicated American says
Pierre, you are letting the majority of the glue to our country know your are a socialist with your opinions. Thanks to our CONSTITUTION our first amendment gives you the right to your opinion. Unfortunately that has done damage not only to We the working class people and the ones that want everything FREE. Who do you think is going to foot the bill for FREE ? We tax payers foot the bill for all illegals, people that are able to work but prefer to collect welfare. Please check out your opinions regarding social security payments. We The Tax Payers have worked all our lives and put money weekly into FICA, That accumulated over the years until retirement. Then we are entitled to draw on that money when we all reach retirement. THAT IS NOT SOCIALISM, If Bernie Sanders and the rest of the sapsuckers in our country want FREE Socialism, go to Russia, Cuba, China and see what Socialism Communism is all about. Nothing is free there. Some of your reporting, Pierre, should be on what Socialism communism is really about. You are lucky to be in a country where you can voice your opinions. Could you do that in the country you came from.
You are clearly an educated man who lives in the real world. Thank You. As long as all of these old people can only see the world through their 1950s glasses, the world cannot improve. Hopefully they are the last generation of Hate. They have no clue what it is like to live in this century.
@Bleach guzzling ditto heads – you’re wrong, as usual
Reinhold Schlieper says
Several countries now make higher education available without fees: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, and France offer free post-secondary education for their own as well as for foreign students. Why? Because they are working toward a networked world for the future happiness of all. Why does this culture not get it? We’re losing our frontrunner place in this world with the stupid clown at the top; instead of working at improving, we’re fighting wars against each other. Stupid in the extreme.
Sorry, Pierre–I am willing to bet that most of the people with college degrees before now paid for them. Nobody handed previous generations anything on a stick. The majority of people receiving Medicare and Social Security benefits now paid plenty for them. The good news is, people are living longer. The bad news is, people are living longer and no one has yet had the guts to fix the Social Security and Medicare systems to take actuarial changes into account. That needs to be fixed.
There are plenty of folks who lived in previous generations who have lived through harder times than this and managed to get through it. During The Great Depression, the government under Franklin Roosevelt devised work and social programs, some of which were short-term and some of which served as models for programs of come. But no one has handed any generation everything for free…Not here in the US, anyway. Most countries that have experimented with Socialism went pretty rapidly downhill and the ones that have managed to maintain them more successfully have extraordinarily high taxes i place to pay for them. Everyone pays those taxes–not just the amorphous “billionaires.” The citizens of those countries sacrifice some of the opportunities and freedoms of choice that citizens of the US enjoy in order to maintain the systems that support them.
There is a reason why Bernie Sanders only managed to independently initiate, sponsor and pass less bills in his over a quarter of century serving in Congress than the total numbers of fingers on his two hands. The Progressive wing of the Democratic Party has some good points to make but, all too often, their numbers simply don’t add up. I am all for a college loan forgiveness program that makes sense. But “Free College for all” assumes that (1) everyone was meant to go to college, which is absurd (2) Our country can afford to pay for it which it can’t and (3) People (especially young people) value things they don’t have to work too hard to get and achieve which doesn’t align with either human nature OR common sense.
The Progressive agenda of a “for free for all” feeds right into Trump’s narrative and works in HIS favor. There is a famous saying from a warlord by the name of Sun Tzu, who wrote, “In the At of War”, “If your opponent is destroying himself, rule #1, do not interfere.” The Democrats should pay heed to that truism.
Nothing is free. What a farce. And we sure don’t need to be paying for useless degrees like journalism. Journalism died long ago. All we have now on the left and right are people presenting their opinions as facts. Providing just enough information to fit the naritive they wish to push.
Concerned Citizen says
LOL we sure have become an entitled society. Everyone wants something for free.
College is expensive and not always a guarentee of a career. I used GI Bill and financial aid for my education. Financial aid isn’t a free ride. At 50 I decided I wanted to go into teaching. And that requires certificates. Yet more money and no guarentee. Along comes Covid19 and puts a halt on career plans. So now I have money invested that will probably never see a return.
I don’t follow a lot of tv personalities but one of my favorites is Mike Rowe. Mike is a huge proponent of trade schools. And I think he has something there. While I went the traditional route military then a lengthy career in Law Enforcement then Fire Rescue I realize the service isn’t for everyone. College might not be the answer either. I have an Associates of Art in History that is mostly useless. LOL.
For me the military opened doors and gave me training. After 6 years on active duty I switched to the Guard and did another 10 before an Honerable Discharge. It still gives me an edge today. If you aren’t considering the service think about a steady trade. I have friends who are electricians and make good money. Same with most of my friends who are Nurses. It can be trying for sure but a steady job field is worth it’s weight in gold. :)
With the way things are going noe trade schools might be a more popular choice than a degree that ends up being useless. And expensive.
Percy's mother says
I slogged away 7 days a week for 6 years to pay back $125,000.00 in student loans. It was a hellish existence for those years because every penny I made after taxes went to the student loans because no one tells you in the beginning that student loans accrue interest DAILY. Sometimes I ate nothing but potatoes because I was scrimping and putting as much as I could towards the student loans. One Christmas I didn’t have enough money to put gas in the car AND again had boiled potatoes for Christmas dinner. I was actually told by my loan servicer, “You’ll never be able to pay back the money” (because of the daily interest accrual). All the above is only a tiny bit of what I went through trying to pay back student loans.
However, I did manage to pay off the $125,000.00 PLUS the interest, and then due to physical exhaustion and the stress of it, I got sick. Perhaps I’ve never really recovered from driving myself into the ground as I did.
If everyone’s loans are wiped out, do I get my $125,000.00 back? Do I get the 6 years of hell back I spent driving myself into the ground to pay the money back while my friends who graduated at the same time didn’t ever intend to pay their loans back? Those “friends” went on to purchase homes in the San Francisco bay area, made a fortune from real estate, all the while crying that they still couldn’t afford to pay back their loans. Today, 25 years later, they still haven’t paid back their loans, AND they don’t feel bad about it because they never intended to pay the loans EVER., though they don’t have the strength of character to outwardly admit it.
So who’s the fool? I suppose I am. I did the right thing and got screwed financially and will get screwed again if everyone’s student loans are wiped out.
Another life lesson: NEVER do the right thing or you’ll end up getting screwed.
Definition of free: Paid for by US taxpayers. We pay for everything plus the huge bureaucracy riddled with union thugs who skim off the top. Throw the unions out of the public sector including the teachers’ unions and put taxpayers back in charge.
Free stuff is worth exactly what you pay for it.
William Moya says
Bernie Sanders was right on many issues, for Liberal Democrats all of them were a bridge too far, because for them the status quo is a lot easier to live in, talk aspirational America, but work with Mitch.
While I’m not “all in” on free college. . . I agree about concerns over the budget for such an expense. . . I do take passionate exception to the argument that one must be forced to pay through the nose for education for it to be appreciated.
Does that mean that “only those with means” should be highly educated? Does “Making America Great Again” not only include “Making America WHITE Again”, but also creating a “class” system that automatically elevates those born into money/with white skin color? Is having a truly educated populace that raises us all to a higher civilization no longer desirable? Are poor people not to have the education “boot strap” that so many complain “they/the other/ the inferior” are not using to pull themselves up by?
If we follow that twisted line of logic, should we go back to asking why “girls” should be educated, why those emotional (PMS) women should vote or hold management positions? Just what in the hell was so great about those “good ole days”?
BTW. . . couldn’t agree more about our shift of emphasis away from improvement of the intellect, and the way college professors are paid compared to athletic coaches. WAY TOO MUCH MONEY in SPORTS!!! Follow the $$$$$ to find the motivation for almost everything!!
Applause to the reality shocking positives of Free college by Pierre. Free college should be accessed with admission test so only the real good grade average and up gets admitted and not by their parents bank accounts. Our graduates that own a fortune to pay in loans have to compete with foreign imported graduates from free colleges from allover the world brought here by corporations on special work visas simply to be hired for less than an American graduate that needs to be paid enough to be able to pay off his/her college loan. Fifty billions to prepare our American students for the shortage of professionals we have now (medical, aviation technical and engineering ) is what will help to build up from within our future national success. Remember the opposition to Social Security against FDR in 1935 and same against Dwight Eisenhowher when he proposed to build our red of interstates across America creating millions of jobs!
C’mon people lets work together in using our taxes to benefit us all other than just special interest and those overseas infighting”democracies” mostly. I do not feel that students will get a freebie pass to the professions but to the contrary that we will get our own professionals to benefit us all and to generate a better economy with better paying jobs after graduating and higher contribution to our tax revenue.
College undergrad degrees, with the exception of STEM and nursing degrees, have long been only a slightly stronger affirmation of high school minimum achievement.
And that’s the truth.
Veteran JD says
Lets just take the grant money from the “Higher Learning Institutions” and boom, we can afford to pay for a 4 year degree to anyone who agrees to a 4 year commitment to our defend our nation through our armed forces!!!!
Patricia Brown says
The National Defense Education Act provided low interest loans when I was in college. For each year I taught, 10% of my loan was forgiven. If I taught in a school considered serving at risk student the amount went to 15%. I was debt free in 5 years. I believe it is important that achievement be linked to funding. I am now a college administrator and I see way too many students using Pell and other funding support as a way to support a life style and not an education.