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Should Higher Education be Free?

The rising cost of higher education is a topic that often comes up and the concept of it being free might be something you have thought about yourself, especially if you are considering furthering your education. The feasibility of free higher education really depends on how you define free and how you define getting an education.

If you define education as gaining knowledge, expanding your horizon and developing new skills, then education already is free. The opportunity to do these things is out there…just waiting for you to find it. You can find interesting, eye-opening and valuable information at your local library and on the internet. Many local libraries and other community organizations offer free classes on personal and career development topics and several universities have made videos of some classes available online for free. On the other hand, if you define education as earning credits to apply toward a degree, such as a master’s degree, then this idea won’t meet your needs. While some schools are making videos of some of their most popular courses available online, you do not actually participate in the class and do not receive a grade or course credit.

This leads us to defining what we mean by free. As we mentioned, the information is out there. However, the people involved, including faculty who develop course objectives and assessments that meet accreditation requirements, instructional designers and instructors, plus all of the people involved in the necessary administrative roles that make an educational institution function, need to be paid for their time. Due to the costs associated with the delivery of education, it can’t truly be free…someone has to pay for it and it is just a matter of who bears the cost. For example, if higher education is fully funded by the government, you are still paying for it through taxes. The question then becomes, “who should bear the cost of higher education?”

In the meantime, there are great free opportunities available to further your education and your career. At the very least, if a university you are considering attending makes videos of classes available online for free, you could spend some time observing classes to help you make your decision regarding attending that school.

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