Editorial: Students still need free college tuition

Most students would jump for joy if free community college tuition actually became a reality. Between rent, living expenses and transportation, many people give up on the idea of going to college, believing that incurring debt from tuition costs isn’t worth it.

In January 2015, President Barack Obama unveiled the America’s College Promise proposal to make “two years of community college free for responsible students,” according to the White House. Students enrolled at least half-time and working steadily towards a specific program while maintaining a 2.5 GPA or higher would be granted free tuition, according to the White House.

What would have saved students an average of $3,800 per year in tuition fees, failed to gain the support needed to make it work and has since been unheard of.

Meanwhile, community college students are still faced with the same financial burdens. Back to square one.

Though university tuition fees are much higher than those at community colleges, many community college students still take out loans. With high interest rates and deep penalties for late or non-payments, student loans can contribute to more financial woes.

In a national study by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, students who took out student loans at the community college level defaulted at a nearly 21 percent rate, compared to public four-year colleges that default at a 9 percent rate and 7 percent at private universities.

Free or even reduced community college fees may open doors for more students to attend, which may be just what California needs. If the goal is to instill confidence in populations that currently can’t even consider pursuing education after high school because it seems so unaffordable, then let fees be cut.

On the other hand, it probably won’t do much to help graduation rates.

The Board of Governor’s Fee Waiver has been waiving enrollment fees for low-income students since it was introduced in 1984, yet student success is still an issue.

According to an article by The New York Times, only 20 percent of full-time community college students seeking a degree get one within three years, citing poor college preparation among students as the dominant issue.

To be fair, there are students who can genuinely claim financial issues as dominant reasons to why they failed classes or dropped out, and they will benefit from a release of tuition fees. For many others it just comes down to more college preparation, sheer hard work and persistence.

So free tuition won’t solve every problem that every student faces, but it will definitely take a load off. Allow us to save money so we can worry about what we need to, passing our exams.

Additionally, perhaps baby steps towards reducing fees at the community college level gives students a bit of hope, because when facing the monster of fees that higher education at a university will bring, hope is needed.

Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders said he plans to make tuition free at all public colleges and universities, according to the Sanders campaign. According to an article by the Washington Times, the first things people think about when Sanders is mentioned are, “old” and “socialist.” On a brighter note, “Americans mention that he cares about people and the middle class, that he is personable and that he is intelligent,” according to the article. Now if he could carry these strengths into the November election, the idea of free tuition may show promise.

But, for now, there is little hope for the checkbooks of college students.

That being said, all other politicians must take notice: Students still need free tuition, even if Bernie loses.