Tuition, housing costs still at forefront of presidential campaign

Ryan Landolph

With the presidential debates heating up, college tuition has been an important area of concern for many candidates.

Democratic candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has been advocating free higher education for students in the United States, which is a system currently in place for international students in various countries overseas and in Europe.

When Sanders spoke at Cleveland State University on Nov. 16, he explained his concept for tuition costs in America, calling it “a process in which every public college and university in America is tuition-free.”

With Kent State being one of the public universities Sanders referenced, students would fall into his tuition plan — something similar to what the university’s students would be subjected to if they studied in Germany, according to Top Universities.

Tuition costs

With tuition costs either free or miniscule for international students in countries such as Germany, Finland, France, Sweden, Norway, Slovenia and Brazil, according to The Washington Post, there is a big discrepancy compared to what students pay in tuition at Kent State.

As stated by The Washington Post, “Americans can earn a German undergraduate or graduate degree without speaking a word of German and without having to pay a single dollar of tuition fees: About 900 undergraduate or graduate degrees are offered exclusively in English.”

On the other hand, according to Kent State’s tuition website, in-state residents pay is a little over $10,000 each semester for its undergraduate degree, while out-of-state residents pay more than $18,000 for the same studies.

While this is a substantial amount of money, Andria Blackwood, a grad appointee of geography at Kent State, does not think price makes a difference.

“I believe education is priceless,” Blackwood said. “No matter what happens in a person’s life, no one can take away his or her education. It becomes part of a person’s identity.”

Costs of living

Like tuition prices, there is a big difference in the costs of living in the aforementioned overseas countries and Kent State.

“The cost for the majority of our room types is $3,232 (each semester),” said Jill Church, director of Residence Services. 

However, there are still plenty of opportunities available for students to have their room and board rate decreased.

“Housing contributes one million dollars in scholarships annually,” Church said. “These are student room scholarships.”

Comparatively, it is considerably more expensive to live in a city overseas.

According to Top Universities, locations such as Germany and France will cost students slightly over $10,000 a year to cover living costs, but in places like Sweden, “the costs of living in Northern Europe are among some of the highest in the whole of Europe.”

Also, students do not get some of the same benefits living off campus like they would in these places with free tuition, as they do in public universities.

“Students who live on-campus do better academically, get connected to students, staff and faculty at higher rates and graduate sooner,” Church said.

More than money

While money is a big factor in determining whether or not students will attend a university, making education free will have larger, overarching effects on students.

“Free tuition would provide the opportunity for more unfortunate young people to be able to obtain an education and work toward a career,” said Connor King, a sophomore athletic training major. “This is important because it could contribute to having a wiser and more qualified country for certain jobs all across the world. Also, this is important for poorer people who may not have the chance to go to college and receive a degree due to money.”

The likely increase in the number of students has Blackwood concerned.

“I would be a little concerned with the volume of students,” Blackwood said. “(Kent State) has a hard time placing them all in dorms as it is. I wonder where they would put all the students on and around campus. I also would worry about student-teacher ratio. I am a firm believer in classroom teaching and hands-on learning. I would want that to remain in place.”

Expectations

While this plan is far from concrete, if Sanders is elected president, it appears bringing free tuition to public universities is important to him and would likely be high on his agenda.

There will be opposition to his plan, however.

“I think my biggest reason for being opposed (to Sanders’ plan) is that I just do not see how we could realistically fund free education for millions of people without a big raise in taxes,” said Chris Martin, a junior exercise science major.

Also, with free tuition could come other ramifications.

“If we were to offer free higher education, I would like to see it tied in some way to community service,” Blackwood said. “It would be great to see the opportunity for higher education go full circle by having students give back to the communities that supported their studies.”

Ryan Landolph is the resident life reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]