Webster Hall

Webster Hall, located on the UH Mānoa campus, houses the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene.

Elizabeth Ratliff, a Windward Community College faculty member, had been quite animated during her explanation on how “easily affordable” her college education was 30 years ago. To say that she was mortified by the dramatic increase in current tuition prices is an understatement.

“It was so much cheaper in the 80s,” she said. “I didn’t even incur any debt when I was enrolled as a student.”

With a free tuition, many students will feel less pressured by their bank accounts, and more encouraged to pursue their ideal majors as well as their degrees.

A dramatic increase in time

According to the New York Times, American public college tuitions ran up to $510 a year during the 1970s. For private institutions, a $1,000 was average for a semester.

It is unfortunate circumstances like these in which many students and faculty advocate for the possibility of having a free college education in the United States.

“College really is the best way to get exposure on different ideas, values, and prosperities,” said Ratliff, who has spent 27 years serving as WCC’s Media Coordinator. “A free college education will offer greater opportunities to the overall economy.”

Benefits of free tuition

“The constant pressure of tuition is rising is frightening,” said Sheila Smith, a second-year WCC student who’s majoring in Liberal Arts.

Smith also concludes that having a free college education will more likely lighten the loads of stress students receive from both on-campus and off-campus responsibilities as they struggle their part-time jobs, classes and other daily activities.

With the guaranteed relief of not having to pay back the thousands of dollars acquired through financial aid, many colleges can expect an exponential increase of student enrollment should they offer a free tuition.

Why Obama’s proposal should be implemented

In 2015, President Barack Obama proposed the possibility of having a two-year tuition-free plan for students who are enrolled half-time or over with a decent GPA of 2.5 or higher, starting with community colleges.

“I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today.” Our president stated during his State of Union Address.

One of the ways in advocating President Obama’s free college proposal involves our federal government covering 75 percent of tuition payments in community colleges while the state covers the remaining 25 percent.

An effective plan towards this goal is to set “guidelines and requirements” that can serve as a testament that a student’s college education, free or otherwise, was taken seriously.

Benefits of paid tuition

Dr. Richard Rapson, a History and American Studies professor at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, recognizes that the Republican Party is making it difficult to implement Obama’s dream due to increased taxes that would follow through his proposal.

“They foster a ‘you’re on your own” philosophy,” said Dr. Rapson, “in the belief that any governmental aid to all, except the rich, fosters what they call “a culture of dependency’.”

The idea of not having to pay for college is unimaginable, according to Fox News, who believe students should pay at least half of their tuitions in order to build up responsible character.

Senior Vice President Phyllis Silverman of the PNC Financial Services Group Inc. asserted that having an education is “not a right” and that students are more likely to “appreciate their education more if they have to contribute.”

Silverman also believes that many students who are forced to take out grants and student loans will greater appreciate their educations and will encourage them to work twice as hard in order to obtain their college degrees.

Education, free or otherwise, requires commitment

While having a free college education may not be implemented in the next few years, students need to recognize the importance of an educational dedication should they enroll under paid tuitions or otherwise.

“Anybody would love to have a free education,” said Smith. “But there still needs to be a commitment; a commitment to your classes, your studies, your grades … otherwise, what’s the point of going to college?”