Have you ever looked at the rapidly skyrocketing figure indicating your student debt and wondered why you should be forced to pay for an education? I know I have and with the increasing popularity of socialism amongst millennials I’m not alone.
Today, Australian University students are often pushed into a lifetime of debt in order to access tertiary education. You’d think we’d get a high-quality product with that price tag but no dice. The successive cuts to the sector and explosion of enrolments since the introduction of the demand driven system have resulted in a noticeable decline in teaching and learning quality. University management has responded to this context with vicious restructures, empty advertising campaigns and a reliance on international student fees to prop up the sector.
In a world of rapidly changing technology and jobs, access to education is vital – whether you are leaving school, changing careers or looking to gain new skills and knowledge.
There is an alternative. Free education is not a pipe dream in Australia, with all fees abolished in 1974 by the Whitlam government until the eventual introduction of HECS in 1989. Germany has done it, joining many other countries in Europe. Such socialist policies have gained momentum amongst millennials with the rise of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn – unsurprising considering they are figures in countries where you also get crippled by student debt.
Here are some reasons why we should seriously consider scrapping the price tag attached to studying once again.
1.) It Would Combat Class Inequality
Australia likes to pretend it’s the country of the fair go when in reality class disadvantage is deeply rooted in every aspect of our society. Just look at our hideous treatment of welfare recipients, the overfunding of private secondary schools and demonisation of the working class. Making education free would attract socio-economically disadvantaged students, who are averse to being saddled with debt for much of their working lives.
2.) The Social Benefits Outweigh the Financial Cost
Research proves that free education is in the public good. University graduates tend to pay back the cost of their degrees to the state through tax and their contribution to the running of society. It combats overpopulation, with tertiary educated women more likely to have fewer children. Other reasons include better health, more interesting workplaces, a greater collective capacity for political reasoning, among many others.
3.) Education Can Change the World
Commodifying education is a mistake because it assumes a public good is a private one. Education is a life long process and should be encouraged at all stages of our lives. With our society fighting catastrophic climate change and the rise of the far right, we need better-informed citizens and a healthier democracy.
4.) Education is a Right, Not a Privilege
The idea that one person is more deserving of a quality education cradle to grave is so 1800s guys. Today, many students are expected to take on part-time work in order to be full-time students or to survive on Youth Allowance, which pays as little as $20 a day. Only the very lucky are able to pursue studies without constant bone-chilling anxiety. To each according to his ability, to each according to his means. Stat!
5.) No Cuts! No Fees! No Corporate Universities!
Unfortunately, nothing is given to those who ask nicely. It seems students in Australia will have to collectively fight for a return to free education. We’ve done it before, coming together to beat back fee deregulation just a few years prior. Out of the classrooms and onto the streets baby!