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5 Reasons Why College Should Be Free: The Case for Debt-Free Education

Updated: June 19, 2024 | Published: January 30, 2020

Updated: June 19, 2024

Published: January 30, 2020


The cost of college is rising even faster than inflation in the U.S. Many students around the world face financial constraints when it comes to attending college. Because education is such a vital part of life, there are many reasons why college should be free.

Not only do the arguments for debt-free education include personal benefits, but they also show how education helps to positively impact society overall.

Thankfully, the progression in technology is making it possible to increase access to education globally.

However, there is still a long way to go and more schools and countries are weighing the pros and cons of offering an affordable education. The ability to provide free education for all is becoming more of a possibility as time progresses.

College graduates at affordable university

Photo by Good Free Photos on Unsplash

5 Reasons Why College Should Be Free

Here are 5 reasons that support the case for debt-free education:

1. Improves Society

When people are more educated, they can solve problems better. This means that society can progress at a faster rate.
Additionally, people with education can better understand the history of their society and its current economic conditions. As such, they may be more inclined to participate in politics and improve their country.
Also, when more people have access to a college education, the number of employable people for high-skilled jobs increases. This means that more people will join the workforce, which could help lessen the wealth gap between the upper, middle, and lower classes.

2. Widened Workforce

Along with technological progressions comes a shift in the workforce. Most automated jobs are replacing low-skill workers. Automation is spreading quickly across positions that require repetition, like back-office tasks.
However, automation is not meant to replace the entire workforce. Instead, the needs of most economies are shifting to require a more skilled workforce, with people who have good analytical skills and creative thinking abilities. These skills are both taught and honed with a college education. If more people could attend college for free, then the workforce will expand.
The workforce will also be more agile. In the case of an economic downturn when one industry falters, another generally rises to replace it. Then, workers need to be retrained and taught skills for the job. If more people could enter school and gear their studies towards booming industries, then the population will be more equipped to cope with economic changes.

3. A Boosted Economy

Most students graduate with a massive amount of debt. For example, in the U.S., the average student debt per person is $28,950.

Graduating with significant debt is common in the U.S., where the average student debt is $28,950 per person. This debt can take years to pay off, delaying major life purchases like homes and cars. Without debt, graduates could earn, save, and spend more quickly, stimulating the economy. 

Increased consumer spending boosts demand and creates more employment opportunities, creating a positive economic cycle. Additionally, the fear of debt often deters students from pursuing higher education, so debt-free education could encourage more people to attend college.

4. Increase Equality

Since affordability is a major issue for so many people when it comes to attending college, the playing field has not always been equal.
A lot of the brightest minds in the world stem from low-income households, but that shouldn’t hold them back from continuing their education. If there was an equal opportunity to attend school, then everyone would have the chance to go to school. Affordable education is a major step towards equality.

5. More Focus

When students are not worried about money, they can focus better on their studies. Even when students have loans and financial aid, they may find themselves stuck worrying about how they will have to pay them back in the future. This added stress can negatively impact their focus during the time when they are supposed to be learning.

Free education in Germany

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

Countries That Offer Free College

Many countries understand how debt-free education provides positive outcomes. Therefore, they made tuition-free universities a reality.

Here’s a look at some countries where education is free for everyone, free for just their residents or highly subsidized by the government for foreign exchange students:


  • Free University of Berlin – Known for its programs in humanities and political sciences.
  • Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich – Offers a wide range of programs in arts and humanities, and physical sciences.
  • Technical University of Munich – Renowned for its engineering and technology programs.
  • Humboldt University of Berlin – Famous for its research and diverse study programs.

Austria (free for EU residents, low cost for non-EU residents)

  • University of Vienna – Known for its rich history and diverse programs, offering low-cost tuition for non-EU students and free for EU residents.
  • Graz University of Technology – Offers various technology and engineering courses with affordable tuition.
  • Johannes Kepler University Linz – Provides a range of programs with low tuition fees for international students.
  • University of Salzburg – Offers comprehensive programs in various fields with affordable tuition fees.


  • University of Helsinki – Offers a broad range of programs and is known for high-quality research.
  • Aalto University – Focuses on engineering, business, and arts.
  • University of Turku – Offers diverse programs and has strong research output.
  • Tampere University – Known for its social sciences and technology programs.

Czech Republic

  • Charles University – One of the oldest universities in Europe, known for its diverse programs.
  • Masaryk University – Offers a wide range of programs and is located in Brno.
  • Czech Technical University in Prague – Specializes in engineering and technology.
  • Palacký University Olomouc – Known for its humanities and social sciences programs.

Spain (free for EU residents, low cost for non-EU residents)

  • University of Granada – Known for its affordable tuition fees and diverse programs.
  • University of Salamanca – Offers a variety of programs with low tuition fees.
  • University of Zaragoza – Known for its affordable education in various fields.
  • University of Valencia – Provides a wide range of programs at affordable costs.

Are There Reasons Why College Shouldn’t Be Free?

While free college education has many benefits, there are also arguments against it. Here are some reasons why college shouldn’t be free:

1. Increased Strain on Government Budgets: Free college would require significant funding from the government, which could lead to higher taxes or cuts in other important areas like healthcare and infrastructure. Maintaining the quality of education with limited resources can be challenging.

2. Devaluation of Degrees: If everyone can attend college for free, the value of a college degree might decrease. This could lead to an oversupply of graduates, making it harder for individuals to stand out in the job market.

3. Reduced Accountability for Academic Performance: When students don’t pay for their education, they might take it less seriously. Paying tuition can motivate students to perform better academically, as they have a financial stake in their education.

4. Implementation and Sustainability Challenges: Implementing free college programs is complex and requires careful planning. Some countries or institutions that have tried free college faced financial difficulties or had to limit enrollment due to budget constraints.

The Advantages of Online University

With technological advances, online universities are proliferating. Online universities require less overhead costs. Therefore, they are almost always cheaper than traditional schools. However, there are even some that are totally tuition-free.

Founded in 2009, Shai Reshef started the University of the People with the mission to offer an affordable and quality education to anyone around the world. Students from over 200 countries and territories have been in attendance of the online programs.

We have degree programs in Computer Science, Health Science, Education, and Business Administration.

Thanks to a wide network of volunteers and professors from renowned institutions around the world, the education offered parallels that of a traditional American university and is accredited as such.

The Takeaway

The money for tuition-free or cheaper universities will have to come from somewhere. Arguments against free education include potential tax increases on individuals or businesses, or reallocating funds from other areas like military spending. 

Despite these political considerations, making tuition-free education more widespread offers significant advantages. It promotes equality, stimulates the economy, and creates a more skilled workforce.

At the University of the People, we are dedicated to providing quality, tuition-free education to students globally, embodying the future of accessible and inclusive higher education.

FAQ Section

What are the potential benefits of free college education?

Free college education can increase access to higher education, reduce student debt, and promote social equality. It can also lead to a more educated workforce, driving economic growth and innovation.

Can free college increase access to higher education for all?

Yes, free college can remove financial barriers, making higher education accessible to more people, especially those from low-income backgrounds.

Can free college stimulate economic growth and innovation?

Yes, free college can lead to a more educated workforce, boosting productivity, driving innovation, and stimulating economic growth by filling high-skill job positions.

What are the potential drawbacks of free college education?

Drawbacks include increased strain on government budgets, potential degree devaluation, and reduced academic performance accountability. Implementing and sustaining such programs can be complex and financially challenging.

How does free college impact the job market and workforce?

Free college can lead to a more skilled and educated workforce, but it might also result in an oversupply of graduates, making it harder for individuals to stand out in the job market.

How does free college align with other educational reforms?

Free college can complement other educational reforms aimed at increasing access, reducing inequality, and improving the quality of education. It should be part of a broader strategy that includes vocational training and lifelong learning opportunities.

What are the long-term implications of implementing free college?

Long-term implications include potential changes in government spending priorities, the need for sustainable funding models, and possible shifts in the value and perception of college degrees.

Can free college address the skills gap in certain industries?

Yes, free college can help address skills gaps by making it easier for students to pursue education and training in high-demand fields, thus aligning the workforce with industry needs.

At UoPeople, our blog writers are thinkers, researchers, and experts dedicated to curating articles relevant to our mission: making higher education accessible to everyone.