Tennessee Gov. understands education is a right. Why don’t we?
The stress of college begins for many students and their families long before the first semester. College prices (room, board, and tuition) have risen 42% for public, and 31% for private universities from 2000-2011, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. With the unbelievably high price of college tuition, students are expected to delve deep into their own (or their parent’s) bank accounts for a good education. For most, this means loans taken out and massive debts accrued, or the alternative — foregoing higher education completely. We at the Foghorn do not believe these are good options; thankfully, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam recently proposed a simple solution: make college free.
Education is a human right that should not be limited by a student’s financial situation. In order to make for a more progressive society, we must ensure free and easy access to a higher degree. As stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ (UDHR) Article 26: “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” Haslam’s Tennessee Promise serves to fulfill this basic human right outlined by the UDHR, a right that has largely been ignored in this country.
The “Tennessee Promise” was proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam during his State of the State address on Monday, Feb. 3 2014. The promise was a big one — two free years of either community college or or technical school for high school graduates in the state of Tennessee. If Gov. Haslam’s promise is fulfilled, Tennessee would be the only state in the country with free college. The initiative is important for Tennessee especially, one of the least-educated states in the country where less than one third of residents have a two-year degree, according to NPR.
At first Haslam’s plan seems a grandiose dream, one that raises more questions than it answers. The biggest question of all — if the students are not paying for college then who is? The answer, according to Haslam, is the state’s lottery where an excess amount of cash is generated to the tune of $300 million. “Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future? Priceless,” Haslam said at the address. Haslam’s plan is a breath of clean air in a polluted education environment — an environment that caters to the wealthy while indebting, or excluding, the less fortunate. Haslam has a feasible plan to offer free education in this country.
However it is shocking that we are so behind other countries in terms of free education. Countries like Germany, Sweden, and Ireland (just to name a few) all have free education for their people. Does our Government place lesser value on higher education? During his first joint address to Congress in 2009, Obama stated that the United States “should once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” How will this goal be achieved if many in this country can not afford it?
Attending college might not be right for every person, but having access to it should be a right for every person. The Foghorn hopes Gov. Haslam’s enthusiasm for free education proves contagious, and it spreads across the rest of our country.