3 Reasons College Should Be Free

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A dear friend asked me, “Congratulations on starting a nonprofit organization. Don’t you wish you didn’t have to?” I’d never thought of it, but her comment stayed with me. There are 1.5 million nonprofit organizations, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS). These include private and public organizations that fund veteran services, unhoused assistance, and college pathways, to name a few. While I am new to the world of nonprofits, I’ve taken time to reflect on the difference my family and I are trying to make with our nonprofit; helping first-generation and immigrant families get to college. To answer my friend’s question, I wish I didn’t have to assist college students in need – but here we are. 

Here are three reasons why college should be free.

Critical Thinking.

First, I loved my education because it taught me critical thinking skills. Studying (anything) and having someone else walk me through my thoughts and reasoning behind those thoughts, is one of the most powerful experiences in my life. This goes with solving math problems, deciphering Greek philosophy, and more. Learning to analyze big and small ideas critically is the number one reason everyone who wants an education should have access to it.

Understanding your place in the world. 

Second, understanding my place in the world was powerful, but what does that mean exactly? As a psychology major in college, I understood not only my parent’s struggle with immigration to this country through government US policy (in history) but also the emotional struggle in that process (in psychology). Understanding my parents’ experience gave me empathy in a way I wouldn’t have understood otherwise. This empathy naturally extends to other marginalized groups gravely impacted by government policy. In this way, understanding my place helped me know how I can contribute and give back. 

Learning different things in random classes.

Finally, having to explore different interests because of unit requirements in college forced me to reach beyond my comfort zone. In these classes, I didn’t know I’d love; I met students from different walks of life who I wouldn’t have otherwise met. This also increased my empathy and ability to relate to cultures uniquely. 

Beyond these three, studying something I always cared about (the human mind) drew me closer to personal goals and interests. I wish this for anyone who wants to go to college.

If college were free, would we go?

If universities and trade schools were free, would we go? Would we take advantage of opportunities if certificates and apprenticeships were free and readily available? I’m sure there would be people who would opt out, but I sincerely believe those who want to study something or learn anything should have the opportunity. More than the ability to make a living (although that is part of it), formal education (trade schools and all) provides us with human understanding. That fact alone is a reason that college should be free. 

For now, my family and I will continue building the nonprofit we started – until college is free.

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