Campaign for free higher ed. visits U

Hayley Odom

The last few years’ tuition increases might cause some students to think the possibility of free higher education is nonexistent. But a national campaign aiming to erase the cost of higher education is trying to change that notion.

University of Pennsylvania political science professor Adolph Reed spoke Wednesday at the University of Minnesota about the campaign for free higher education.

“It’s a simple idea,” he said to a group of 13 people at Coffman Union. “Any resident of this country who wants higher education and satisfies the admissions requirements should go without the requirement to pay.”

Reed, the campaign’s spokesman, said higher-education access should be a right for U.S. residents. He said high tuition at universities is cutting off college access for students who cannot pay those costs.

The campaign’s model is the G.I. Bill, he said, because it gave 8 million returning World War II veterans access to higher education. The bill returned $6.90 in revenue for every $1 spent on education, he said.

Reed said that $32 billion was the total cost for tuition and fees for all public universities last year. That amount is approximately 1 percent of the federal budget, he said.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “You don’t have to look for money because it’s such a paltry sum.”

He said politicians are taking note of the matter. In the Democratic Party primaries, every candidate included some type of higher-education reform plan. But the problem was the lack of a clear vision for higher-education proposals, he said.

Marie Milsten Fiedler, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3937 vice president, said she thought the discussion went well.

“It’s something the public, the University (of Minnesota) and the community in general needs to hear,” she said. “This is something that is possible.”

But College Republicans Vice President Tony Richter said looking to the government to finance all public college tuition is not the answer.

“The principle is that college education offers a tremendous reward for the people who pursue it,” he said. “No one ever said it was going to be easy. It does take a sacrifice.”

He said giving free education almost cheapens the experience for those who receive it.

“The human spirit is capable of a tremendous amount,” he said. “If someone wants something bad enough, they’ll find a way to make it happen on their own.”