Danielle Lippold: Let’s make higher education free

aAn issue many people might not consider to be a part of income inequality is the topic of higher education. Whether you have a college degree can determine the rest of your economic life.

Among millennials ages 25 to 32, median annual earning for full-time working college-degree holders is $17,500 greater than for those with high school diplomas only (2012). Today’s young high school-only grads earn about 62 percent of what their college-graduate peers earn. In 1965, the figure was nearly 81 percent.

In recent years a college degree has become more valuable than ever, with employers demanding a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and many even making a master’s mandatory. In 2014, the Federal Reserve Board of San Francisco released a report that said there is an $830,000 difference between getting a college education over just a high school diploma. Yet, a growing number of college grads find themselves in minimum wage retail or fast food jobs. At the same time, the cost to go to college has become more expensive especially with more and more cuts to education in the government.

One solution that President Obama proposed is the government paying for two years of community and technical colleges for first-time American students. The America’s College Promise Act would create a federal-state partnership with federal funding covering three-quarters of the average community college tuition, and states covering the rest. The program exemplifies a larger nationwide push (paywall) to reduce the cost of an undergraduate degree for debt-burdened Americans.

bIn July 2015, Oregon lawmakers passed a bill to implement free community college for students statewide, based on a similar program already offered in Tennessee. Many countries in Europe have been doing this for years, but there is a catch. The countries that offer free higher education also have higher taxes. These countries also have a lower amount of students taking advantage of these programs.

So, while this idea does come with a price, it is still worth it so the next generation can get the education they deserve to take this country to the next level.

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