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Should university be free?

A lot of students graduate from university with over £40,000 worth of student loan debt. Interest rates on student loans are quite high, and the loans start accumulating interest from the minute you take it out at the beginning of your first year.

What if we could snap our fingers and make university free?

Let’s have a look at some pros and cons!

Pros of free universities
  • Reduces student loan debt.

This is the biggest pro, it would eliminate student loans.

  • Increases access to higher education.

While you still have to get accepted into prestigious universities, it would increase access to university because many people don’t go (or even consider it) because of cost. That said, it would also increase competition. This would increase access to university for some and decrease it for others. It’s not always about academic fit or financial means though, universities accept folks for a variety of reasons but the applicant pool would certainly increase.

  • Increases focus in university.

A lot of students have to take part-time jobs to help pay for university. As a result, you may be paying thousands of pounds to go to school and diverting your focus away from academics for many hours a week… just to work a job. Surely it's better to be focussed on the education and learning you're paying so much for, not working to help pay for university?!

Cons of free universities
  • People don’t always value 'free'.

If you get something for free, you often don’t value it as much as if you paid for it. There are a variety of reasons for this but the main one is that when you pay for something, you have given up something tangible for it – your money. Free university will still cost you time but we don’t value our time as much as we value our money. If university gets difficult, it’s easier to walk away when you aren’t saddled with the cost. If you pay £30,000 for something, anything, you’re going to value it more than if you paid zero. It’s human nature.

  • People would go to university even if it’s not for them.

Going to university is not the best choice for everyone. There are lots of other qualification routes including apprenticeships, which we're seeing much more of nowadays. If university was free, and you didn't have to spend £40,000, we're sure lots more people would go, regardless of whether it was the right choice!

  • Universities would need financial help from somewhere....

If students weren't paying fees, universities would need to generate income in some other way. The most likely answer is from the government, but where would the government get their money from? When the government needs to increase funds it tends to do this by increasing taxes. So essentially you could argue nothing is really free!


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