Proposed free tuition initiatives could hurt DSU, professors say

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Free college for all is a part of the platform of several 2016 presidential candidates.

President Barack Obama proposed to make community college free and reduce student loan debt in his State of the Union address Jan. 12. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have also debated the merits of free higher education and where the money would come from. 

Sanders’ plan for free public colleges and universities called for Wall Street to be taxed a fraction of a percent, which he alleged would pay for his college-aimed plans.  The estimated cost to fund his reforms are projected to cost $75 billion per year, which Sanders maintains that Wall Street owes this to the American people.

Likewise, Clinton’s plan to eliminate student loan debt is projected to cost $350 billion over a period of 10 years. 

As Dixie State University is a public university, it would be affected by the free college movement. 

There has been expressions of doubt as to how effective moving to a free college system would be. 

Assistant English professor Jim Haendiges said he had concerns that college degrees would lose value if made completely free.

“I don’t know that making college completely free is a good idea,” Haendiges said.  “Having something financial attached brings accountability.”

A shift to make colleges free may affect the growth of DSU.  According to enrollment data, DSU has been trending upward in its growth over the past 10 years. But David Roos, executive director of enrollment management, said he was concerned DSU might suffer if college became free.

“A concern would be that DSU may not be on a level playing field if all college became free,” Roos said.

While the idea of free college may have some appeal, the overall tone is that any plan to move forward with free college needs to be approached with care and caution, said Natasha Corral, a junior accounting major from Odessa, Texas.  

“I feel the idea of free college is very appealing and sounds like a great opportunity for everyone,” Corral said. “But I don’t think people look at the negative backlash that could happen.”

Haendiges said he was also concerned making college free would create a more high-school-like atmosphere, creating resentment among the students and professors.

“Instead of making college completely free, there should be a compromise,” Haendiges said. “The high student debt due to tuition is a problem and a real burden to graduates, but I don’t think the answer is necessarily free college.”