Governor Phil Murphy announced a new budget plan for New Jersey last week. The proposed plan includes raising the sales tax back up, a millionaires' tax, and raising taxes on services like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb. The money would go towards NJ Transit, schools, and gun safety research. Governor Murphy announced that he wants to make community college tuition free in 2021. As someone who pays over $500 a month in student loans I have a few thoughts on this.

In a perfect world is the idea of going to college for 2 years a lovely thought? Of course it is. However, to me, it raises many red flags. I grew up in a generation where we were told we had to go to college. My generation was told you will never amount to anything unless you went to college. Were we lied to? While I don't think it was a complete lie, it was definitely an over exaggeration.

Before you get up in arms and tell me that I'm a millennial so I cannot possibly know what I'm talking about hear me out. I was told over and over that college was important and that in today's society you cannot be successful without it. Like I said before, this is an extension of the truth. For a few years society seemed to have looked down on people that went to trade schools and went into the skilled labor fields. Fast forward a few years and we are now marketing to get people into those jobs because they are lacking. As a society we pushed kids away from skilled labor jobs and now we have put ourselves into a corner.

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There were a few years when jobs chose people with college degrees over actual real life experience. Those days seem to be dwindling. More and more jobs are no longer making a college degree a requirement. Are there jobs out there that will and should always require a college degree? Absolutely. Are there jobs out there that require a college degree that shouldn't? Again, absolutely.

What does this have to do with free college?

The harsh reality is that college isn't for everyone. We all have our own talents and we all have things that we are just never going to be good at. College is one of those things. According to Forbes 57% of students will graduate with a degree in 6 years. 31% of students will drop out.

With free tuition college, attendance rates will most likely raise and so will that drop out rate.

I did a quick search of median salaries for skilled labor careers. On average the median salary for a plumber is $53,000 with the high end salary at $90,000. Electricians have a median salary of around $52,000 with the high end salary also being $90,000. Bricklayers average around $50,000 a year, diesel mechanics average $52,000, and carpenters average at $43,000 with the high end salary being almost $80,000.

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There are so many jobs out there looking for new employees that do not require a college degree. It wasn't that long ago when a good majority of the population did not attend college at all.

There are many grants and scholarships out there that can help students go to college with no or minimal debt. The problem lies with students not applying for them. Nothing is really free, we will still be paying for "free" community college one way or another. Another fear of mine lies with students that remain at a community college for many years, I have known people who stayed at a community college for over 8 years.

After students graduate from a community college, they leave with an associates degree. Most jobs that require a degree require a bachelors degree, not an associates.

What steps can be done so that students don't graduate with as much crippling debt?

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  • Stop telling kids that college is the only way to function in today's society. It is simply not true. Encourage college, but also lay out all available options so that students can make an informed decision.
  • Make sure your kids are taking advantage of scholarships and grants. I've noticed many students not taking advantage of this money throughout their time in college. Here is a list of grants and scholarships that are for New Jersey specifically.
  • Rather than offering "free" college, legislators should look to the student loan companies who take advantage of students with interest rates. Students have little to no credit since they are still not out in the workforce yet, this allows loan companies to have outrageous interest rates. The average student borrows over $35,000.
  • Regulating textbook costs will also help students afford to go to college better as well. No textbook is worth $400 to open 5 times the entire semester.

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