Jasmine Knox, Staff Writer

The issue of free education has been coming to light recently, especially as a hot button topic among the current presidential candidates. All candidates have addressed the issue of the exceedingly expensive cost of education, but Senator Bernie Sanders has been one of the first candidates in history to formally address and present a plan to cover the costs of education.

Those who identify with conservative ideals have urged young adults wishing to obtain an education to enlist in the military in order to obtain their benefits.

However, this idea has been met with much backlash, with those who disagree believing that young men and women should not be forced to enlist in the military and potentially face war to pay for their education.

In America, education is free to the public from kindergarten through 12th grade, and is paid for through taxpayer dollars.

While there are private institutions that charge tuition, a majority of American public schools provide an above-decent education and give students the skills and potential to be accepted into the top colleges in America, as well as earn scholarships. But when it comes to federally funded college, it appears that’s going too far.

No one should have to risk their lives and endure the trauma that is war and combat in order to pay for their education, and no one should tell a student to do so. In today’s world, “hard work” only goes so far. A student who makes straight A’s in high school, has done thousands of hours in community service work, is involved in extracurricular clubs and sports, and serves as student body president may be accepted in more colleges than most, and may be eligible for several scholarships, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be successful after college, especially if they are burdened with student loans.

I will use myself as an example. I graduated high school with a 4.2 GPA, was heavily involved in theatre, performed almost 200 hours in community service, took International Baccalaureate (IB) and AP courses, and had just above average SAT and ACT scores. I was offered the Alderman scholarship from FSC, which offset just over half of my tuition. When it came time to apply for financial aid, my single mother’s income and my part-time minimum wage income impacted the amount I received.

I was only awarded $5,000 in Bright Futures and a $9,000 Pell grant, even though my mother’s income was about $40k per year and I only worked part-time.

When you apply for aid on the FAFSA website, a disclaimer appears that you MUST enter both your parents’ income, regardless of whether or not they are alive but absent from your life or, in my case, they simply refuse to pay for college.

Even though I never saw a dime from my mother towards my education, the government still counted her income against my student aid and indicated that she should/could be contributing $15k per year towards my tuition.

As a single widowed mother paying rent and supporting another younger child, it’s easy to see how that’s not feasible on a $40k salary.

So while it might be tempting for me to go through military training and combat to pay for my college education, that shouldn’t be my only option to completely cover my education.

Many low-income students have massive potential in school, but can’t afford SAT prep courses or have to spend time after school working instead of studying or participating in extracurriculars, impacting their chances to earn scholarships and financial aid when it comes time to apply for college.

Should they be told to enlist to cover their education since they did not have the same opportunities to earn scholarships?

The harsh reality is that many students in those same situations see the military as their only option to further their education, and they shouldn’t. The government should do more to help them.

Photo by U.S. Army via Creative Commons