Tuition is unethical

A stack of hundred and twenty dollar bills.

Colleges, private high schools and higher education across the United States all charge tuition of some kind. This tuition can range from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $60,000 for elite private universities. While many universities offer scholarships, both merit based and need based, tuition, particularly college tuition, continues to be a heavy strain on many Americans well after they graduate. This is why student loan debt continues to be a heavy strain on the entire American economy. But, is the concept of tuition ethical, from a purely philosophical perspective? As you may come to find out, the answer is a simple no.

First, let’s understand the basic principles of the argument I will make. First, my argument is not that higher education should be paid for by the government, or that more need based scholarships should be given to low income. Rather, I am diagnosing a sickness. These remedies, while ethical in their own right, do not actually fight the root cause. The fact of the matter is that education, particularly higher education undergraduate degrees, are treated like a good or service. It is my hope that future civilizations will look back and be disgusted to see how we treated education as something that needed to paid for.

Currently in the United States, kindergarten to 12th grade is technically free. However, this does not consider transportation, meals and potential extracurricular activities. In many countries such as the United States, private schools, particularly high schools, exist to provide additional education opportunities to students or families who may wish to attend. These private schools may have additional focus on religious studies, sports or education. However, the biggest burden on American students is the financial burden of higher education; this burden is by no means ethical and leaves low income families unable to obtain what many consider to be the best way out of poverty: a college degree.

The United States does offer public university options; however, these opportunities are limited. Public universities are often in cities and are difficult to access without a car. Take, for example, UMass Amherst. Despite working to eradicate income and racial inequality through their public statements, their location is an unavoidable barrier to truly accomplishing this goal. UMass Boston suffers from the same issue; despite being located close to Boston, it is relatively difficult to access UMass Boston from the population dense areas of Boston, requiring students to travel on public transportation to attend school. This provides additional barriers to students hoping to attend university.

The most obvious barrier to entry for so many students is the ridiculously expensive tuition. Despite being a public university, UMass Boston still charges several thousand dollars a semester to those who don’t qualify for financial aid. Despite this generous financial aid, UMass Boston is still not cheap for many students who struggle to pay for food, parking, transportation and textbooks. The reality is that the concept of tuition and paying for an education is substantially flawed, unethical and should not exist in the modern era.

Certainly, a good or service cannot exist without people providing for it. If tuition truly is unethical, who will pay the professors? How can we print textbooks without funding? Who will keep the electricity on, or who will pay for the technology on campus? The simple answer is, I am unsure. While the government can have free higher education, the problem then occurs that people who may not want a college degree will be paying for the education of others. This presents an entirely new, different ethical dilemma. The reality remains that paying for an education means that there are a whole host of barriers that prevent low-income families from pursuing an education. Many potential college students are unable to pursue degrees because they simply cannot not work. Simply put, this barrier makes tuition unethical.

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