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Why am I paying to get paid?

Isabella Santoro

Staff Writer

Higher education in 2024 has skyrocketed in price. The cost of going to college is astronomical and most people cannot afford to go in this economy. Most jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree, if not a master’s or a doctorate degree, which are all extremely expensive ventures.  

The cost alone of a bachelor’s degree is more than most working class students can afford. Rhode Island College’s tuition is approximately around $11,000 per year for in-state students before potential room and board, extra fees for services such as using the gym or library and the cost of textbooks. The cost of attendance averages out to be around $44,000 if one graduates within four years. Most students at RIC do not graduate within four years, resulting in the total cost being higher. Understandably so, most students cannot afford to pay for their tuition in full for all four years. As a result, the average college student accrues a decent amount of debt. 

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Paying back student loans over the course of a fixed amount of years is detrimental to those living paycheck to paycheck. For example, someone trying to provide for a family with a low-wage job will struggle to allocate funds towards living expenses and loan payments. At the same time, most jobs that pay a livable wage require at least a bachelor’s degree, if not higher, to even be considered for employment. In this day and age, you must pay to be paid and if you don’t have an education in this day and age, it’s nearly impossible to make a living.  

Having higher education be free would greatly benefit the economy because more people would graduate and thus be able to work higher paying jobs and contribute to the working force. Making the cost of attendance free for students would make higher education more accessible, allowing for more students to be able to obtain their degree. Graduation rates across Rhode Island are clocking in around 35 percent, which is not by far the worst, but it could significantly improve if higher education should become free or at least reduced greatly. Programs exist in the state of Rhode Island to help with the cost of attendance, such as the RI Promise Scholarship and the Hope Scholarship. However, these programs have stipulations, like full-time enrollment and GPA thresholds that have to be met for a certain amount of time. Depending on the circumstances a student comes from, stipulations might make qualifying for these scholarships quite difficult. Though meant to be a life-preserver for those drowning in financial struggles, these scholarships might not be accessible to everyone. 

Not only would free tuition be beneficial so as not to have student debt, it would also be beneficial for those who are trying to find jobs and housing after completing college. People often only take into consideration the salary of the job without researching if it’s right for them. This would make sense for an economy that is ever-changing and not in a good way. A decent salary is important, but along with that, one should always strive for a job that they enjoy or at least know they are qualified for. You can’t continue to grow and learn in a job that doesn’t satisfy your needs

Many students end up dropping out because they can’t afford to continue their education. Around 38 percent of students admitted said they dropped out because of financial issues. It was also found that students commonly worry that they won’t be able to afford the loan repayments after graduating. This might lead them to dead-end jobs such as the food industry or retail, which are jobs nonetheless, but often unsatisfying. I have personally heard from friends and family that customer service and those kinds of jobs that only require a high school diploma are often draining and demanding.  

To remedy this, there are presidential candidates such as Jill Stein who support free higher education and advocate for it. It’s a good idea to write to your representatives to call for change. Something to consider is why we need free higher education and why it’s important that we gain access and rights to it. In a growing and changing economy, free higher education not only helps those gaining an education but the economy as a whole.  


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