In today's job market, a four-year college degree carries about the same weight as a high school diploma did in the 1970's. We need to make the same commitment to college students today that our grandparents made to K-12 education. Free public education should be extended to include four years of college.
Unfortunately, our education system has not kept up with this increased need for a college degree. The high price of college tuition prevents many students from attending college. Many more begin college only to drop out due to financial hardship. The lack of a college degree means that many of these young adults are essentially locked out of many job markets.
Something is wrong when we no longer see our colleges as centers of higher learning but instead view them as profit generators for banks and for-profit institutions. Students accumulate, on average, more than $28,000 in debt while pursuing a college degree (Reed & Cochrane, 2014). Suppressed wages and other economic forces mean that many of these students will end up in low-wage jobs despite their college degree. A college graduate should be able to afford his or her own place to live. Students do not go to college so they can become indentured servants.
If America is to be competitive in the global economy - if Colorado is to be competitive - then we must make college affordable and available for all students who qualify. Not to do so is a waste of valuable human resources that we simply cannot afford to lose.
Matthew Reed and Debbie Cochrane (2014). Student Debt and the Class of 2013. Institute for College Access & Success. See http://ticas.org/sites/default/files/legacy/fckfiles/pub/classof2013.pdf