Free college education? Some weary on idea

Local News

How you pay for college education could change as the idea of free college comes to the surface.

College debt and enrollment are constantly on the minds of private college administrators, but now the idea of free college could be another obstacle for universities.

Parents say it would make their kids debt-free, but private colleges say it may lead to other problems.

“That would be great honestly,” said Jessica Joncis.” I think it would probably make students coming right out of high school more apt to go to school.”

But what does that mean for local private institutions that are not funded by the government?

“Mercyhurst and schools like Mercyhurst could not survive if 45 percent of our student population departed,” said Mercyhurst President Michael Victor. “We are tuition dependent and we have a small endowment and that would effect many of the private institutions across the state.”

Victor said the impact would not only be felt by the institutions, but the surrounding communities as well.

“Gannon and Mercyhurst alone have approximately ($500 million) worth of economic impact in Erie and employ nearly 2,000 people across the campuses,” Victor said. “What if that was to disappear overnight? So there is a lot of thinking that needs to happen before one says ‘free education.’”

Though the possibility would leave students completely debt-free, some said there are still unanswered questions of where the money would come from.

“I really don’t like it that much,” said Jamar Grandberry, a high school student. “How are you going to pay teachers and other stuff and food and electricity… I really don’t like it.”

Victor will be giving a talk on not only the topic of free college but other challenges facing higher education at the Jefferson Educational Society on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

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