The Instigator
Pro (for)
7 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Free Tuition at Community and Technical Colleges

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 4/16/2015 Category: Education
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,698 times Debate No: 73604
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (30)
Votes (1)




It took me long enough to challenge you... sorry for the wait!!
This debate will be over the following resolution: In the United States, students should be guaranteed two years of free tuition to a technical or community college.

1. No new arguments in the final round.
2. The debate is over the resolution above since it will not fit in the title due to lack of characters.
3. 2000 elo required to vote.

R1: acceptance
R2: constructives
R3: rebuttals
R4: rebuttals and conclusions


Hurrah. I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


I affirm the resolution which states resolved: In the United States, students should be guaranteed two years of free tuition to a technical or community college.

community college - 2 year government supported college that offers an associates degree
(Merriam Webster)
technical college - a college providing courses in a range of practical subjects (i.e. information technology, applied sciences, engineering, agriculture, and secretarial skills)
(Oxford Dictionaries)
guaranteed - an assurance for the fulfillment of a condition
(Merriam Webster)

C1: Funding free community and technical school education pays for itself.
Allowing more students to graduate from community and technical school is a net benefit to the economy because graduates will earn more money, thus enabling them to pay more taxes. To elaborate, over the span of a life time, students that earn associate's degrees will earn 300,000 dollars more than a high school graduate (1). Of this money, up to 100,000 dollars will be taxed. These numbers render a plan providing free tuition to community and technical colleges worthwhile because an associates or technical degree costs only 30,000, allowing the government to come out up to 70,000 dollars ahead. Thus, even if the government is using funds to pay for such degrees, the degree costs less than the amount of money that graduates end up giving directly back to the government. AACC (American Association of Community Colleges) has found that money invested in community colleges, "yields a benefit-cost ratio of 6.8, meaning that for every 1 dollar of public money invested in America's community colleges, taxpayers receive a cumulative value of $6.80 over the course of the students' working lives (2)." This ratio shows that providing free community and technical school for students is an economically smart option because it costs the government virtually nothing, when taking into account the amount of money directly going back to the government through income tax.

C2: Funding free community and technical school education benefits society.
There are societal benefits to providing free community and technical college educations. Graduates are less likely to use welfare programs like medicaid and food stamps, and contribute less to crime. This means that allowing more people to graduate from college and obtain an associates degree reduces crime rates and use of welfare. AACC explains that society gains around 25.90 dollars in benefits for every one dollar the government spends on community colleges, thus furthering the point that funding free tuition pays for itself (3). Additionally, the workforce benefits from more enrollment in community and technical schools because there is a need for jobs that are obtained through diplomas from technical colleges. Strauss explains that under the status quo there is a shortage of workers in skilled trades like plumbing, electricity, and mechanics. He claims that this, "is not much of a surprise in the United States, where vocational education has essentially collapsed over the past few decades amid a push to increase college graduation (4)." This problem is predicted to get progressively worse because a large portion of technical workers are beginning to retire. Croft explains that the average skilled craft worker is between 50 and 60 years old (5) Most high school students do not consider a career in skilled trades appealing. A survey by RIDGID found that a scant 6 percent of high school students hope to have a career in skilled trades (6) Thus, providing free tuition to technical colleges benefits the community because it attaches an incentive to getting a technical degree.

C3: Funding free community and technical school education increases matriculation and graduation rates.
Students from low income environments have little means to pay for community and technical colleges. Even with financial aid, namely pell grants, students struggle to pay college and other related expenses. This is because the amount of financial aid given to students has decreased significantly. Kurth explains that pell grants used to cover 87% of college related expenses, and now the cover as little as 13% of expenses students face (7). Moreover, many community colleges do not offer Pell Grants, further hindering students from being able to graduate from community college debt free. Technical colleges are even more expensive, averaging around 33,000 for a two year degree. Students are deterred from even attending college due to the cost attached; community and technical colleges that have instituted programs providing free tuition have seen massive increases in matriculation rates, showing that more students can obtain an education when the cost disappears. In Tennessee, enrollment increased by 11% due to the implementation of free community and technical school education (9). Not only does enrollment increase, but also graduation. The College Completion Corporation explains that being underfunded is one of the main reasons college students drop out. CCC"s survey from various college dropouts found that 84% of drop outs had to leave due to financial reasons (10). In the span of two years prior to implementation, it was found that Tennessee Tech Centers have a graduation rate of up to 80% (11), and the graduation rate in community colleges doubled (9), empirically showing that the provision of free tuition raises the amount of students with degrees and provides for the benefits noted in contention one and two.

My evidence is done in the form of screenshots that I took of websites I got my cards from; It's probably a bit of an inconvenient way to compile evidence, but it helps me access my cards in formal debate. The url should be visible on most of the pictures.

(2) and (3)


Thank you, Debatability.
I'll be using this round to provide my constructive case.
It will consist of an ethical argument as well as three pragmatic arguments against the resolution.


How do we determine what the US government "should" or "should not" do? My opponent seems to assume that the standard which we should be using is consequentialist in nature. However, that is an incredibly subjective criterion. Every governmental policy has innumerable consequences, both beneficial and detrimental, which simply cannot all be accounted for -- reality involves far too many variables to decisively predict the results of any given policy. This is the reason why formal debate as an organized activity has continued for as long as it has: all "empirical" evidence regarding the practical consequences of policies is ultimately subjective, hence allowing a solid case to be made for virtually any political position. This is evident even in the world of academia: the same policies have been debated ad nauseum for decades with little to no consensus on anything coming about among scholars (e.g. death penalty deterrence, effect of guns on crime, minimum wage, etc). Furthermore, even if we *could* accurately determine all of a given policy's costs and benefits, it is impossible to rationally weigh those costs and benefits against each other. For example, if a policy annually results in 100 deaths but prevents 100,000,000 severe injuries, is it beneficial? How about if the number of injuries prevented was only 10,000? What if the number of deaths was 5000? All attempts at answering such questions invariably result in entirely arbitrary, subjective, and ultimately meaningless limits being set.

Thus, I contend that deciding issues of government policy based on consequentialist standards is untenable. Instead, to ensure consistency and objectivity in its policies, the government should stick to a more stable, minimalist standard -- namely, the preservation of human rights. In other words, protecting the rights of its citizens is the only plausible role of government. Precisely which rights human beings have can only be determined via argumentative appeal, but the point is that all government actions must have their basis in the protection of a particular human right. For example, if human beings have a positive right to life, then the government is justified in providing them with basic necessities like food, shelter, and healthcare. If human beings have a right to bodily autonomy, then the government cannot justifiably implement policies like mandatory vaccination or presumed consent for organ donation. Similarly, unless human beings have some sort of right to a college education, then the government cannot justifiably enact the policy stated in the resolution. However, it is not my burden of proof to demonstrate that the right doesn't exist -- it is Pro's burden to demonstrate that it *does* exist. Therefore, for now we must presume that the right does not exist, which means that a free tuition policy is unjustified and the resolution is negated.


Here, I will attempt to demonstrate that a free tuition policy would be detrimental and therefore unjustified even under Pro's consequentialist standard.

C1) Too Many Benefactors

Unfortunately, guaranteeing everyone free tuition for community college isn't nearly as simple as it sounds, as it involves several unintended economic repercussions. At least 9 million students are going to take advantage of the free tuition policy every year [1], and there are only 1132 community colleges (CC's) in the country [2], so assuming equal distribution, we're looking at about 8000 extra students per CC. Considering that the average size of a CC student body is about 6800 students [3], that ends up being more than a 117% increase in the average CC's student body! That sort of radical change requires radical adaptation on the part of community colleges. Tuition costs would inevitably sky-rocket just to make the necessary spatial accommodations, and quality of education would crumble due to a lack of resources and doubled student-to-staff ratios. This would not only greatly inflate the government expense of continuing to pay for everybody's tuition, but it would also sharply reduce the value-added by a college education.

C2) Over-Competition

One does not simply release 9 million newly-trained professionals into the job market and expect there to be no backlash. The average salary and job security of any given occupation is determined by 1) the scarcity of employees with the necessary qualifications of that occupation (i.e. supply), and 2) how much utility that occupation grants to employers and/or consumers (i.e. demand). Given that, suddenly introducing 9 million new workers into a job market where even some of the fastest-growing occupations are expanding at less than 100,000 new jobs per year [4] is recipe for disaster, as it overloads the supply without changing the demand. This will inevitably lead to hyper-competition for jobs among new graduates and leave thousands of people unemployed -- most of whom are likely to be from racial minorities and other socio-economically disadvantaged groups. Considering that the government would have spent several thousand dollars on each of those unemployed people, this means millions of dollars of wasted money from people never actually being able to use their higher qualifications to benefit society. The unfortunate fact of reality is that there simply isn't enough room in society for everyone to be middle class.

C3) Under-Matching

"A grave concern about higher education in America is that many high-performing high-schoolers, especially from less-affluent African-American and Hispanic households, do not apply for challenging universities for which they actually have the academic ability. Instead, many such young people settle for community college or less rigorous four-year institutions. This is a phenomenon known as "undermatching". This happens for several reasons, including concerns about the financial risks to the student and his or her family. Undermatching widens the education gap between racial groups, and between richer and less-affluent families. An unintended consequence of providing free tuition at only community colleges is that it would likely add to undermatching. That"s because many smart high-schoolers who come from minority or less-affluent families, or who are the first in their family to go to college, would for financial reasons be even more likely to opt for community college rather that a rigorous four-year college" [5]. According to the Student Financial Aid Services, under-matching is a major problem which "perpetuates the cycle of poverty, but also robs our nation of smart, diverse leadership to solve future problems." [6].


Firstly and most importantly, the only plausible role of government is to preserve citizens' rights, meaning that the USFG is not justified in guaranteeing everyone a free college education regardless of the consequences. Furthermore, such a policy would be harmful to the economy because there isn't enough room in community colleges or the job market to handle the massive number of new community college students that would take advantage of the policy; trying to force it would simply result in radically inflated tuition costs, lower education quality, sharply reduced job security, and increased income inequality (due to under-matching).

The resolution is negated.
Back to you, Ms. VP!


Debate Round No. 2


Thanks Genghis_Khan for your arguments.

During this round, I will be attacking my opponent's case, beginning with their pragmatic harms, and concluding with a rebuttal to my opponent's claims about the role of the government.

C1) Too Many Benefactors

Con proceeds to make the claim that large amounts of individuals are going to take advantage of free tuition to community colleges, making funding free tuition less feasible. There are a few flaws with this argument. Con's evidence isn't related to the resolution at hand. Rather, it is related to Obama's plan. Obama's plan guarantees any applicant with a 2.5 gpa free tuition to community colleges as long as they attend part time. The resolution vastly differs from Obama's plan because it uses the word "students." Meaning that under the resolution, community colleges could reject as many individuals as they want because before an individual goes to college, they are not a "student" and the free tuition guarantee does not apply to them (rather, they are an applicant). Looking at the wording of the resolution, it is obvious that in the affirmative world, community colleges and technical schools still have the right to reject whatever applicants they want, meaning overcrowding will not be an issue. Moreover, the resolution incentives graduating from college in two years because students are only provided tuition for two years. Even if colleges were to allow in more applicants, students would be graduating quicker (allowing for extra room). Thus, it is shown through the wording of the resolution that affirming allows for colleges to have autonomy in the sense that they can accept the applicants they wish to accept while tuition is subsidized by the government. Con's claim too many students will join must fall. In fact, this argument can actually be turned to the pro side due to the added space through faster graduation rates.

C2) Over-Competition

Cross apply my attacks on con's first contention. Since con has not established that under this resolution (not Obama's plan), there will be a massive increase in enrollment, con cannot make the claim that over-competition in the work force will be a valid issue. Beyond this, society currently has too many bachelors and associates degrees and not enough skilled trades workers or community college degrees. So, though the amounts of graduates from community and technical colleges will increase, this is a great thing for the workforce because the resolution deflects individuals focus away from careers that society doesn't need and shifts the focus to more wanted careers, like plumbing or electricity. Starting with the need for skilled trades, it is apparent that the need for these trades is only growing since those involved in the trades are at an age of retirement. Moreover, very few teens even consider trades as an option. Take con's evidence in contention one and turn it to the pro side. This expected increase in applicants is a wonderful thing for trade schools because these schools actually need more students to put out into the work force. More individuals getting involved in trades is unlikely to result in competition because there is such high demand for these jobs. Similarly, community colleges target community need. The degrees promoted at these schools generally cater to the needs of the community itself, and community colleges (just like technical schools) offer instruction in skilled trades (1). Thus, con's claims that over competition will ensue from affirming the resolution are blatantly false when one looks at where the demand lies.

C3) Under matching

Cons final contention goes over the idea that less affluent families will attend community colleges once they become free rather than attending four year institutions. There are a few reasons this point is invalid.
Firstly, this point is non unique. Even if "under matching" exists and is a problem, community college is already cheaper than four year institutions. Thus, under matching is going to exist whether community college is free or not because less affluent families are still given a cheaper alternative.
Secondly, con never establishes why community and technical degrees are bad or substandard. Given the need for degrees in the skilled trades, encouraging *anyone* to attend community or technical college is a good thing regardless of their status.
Lastly, less affluent students are likely to fail in four year institutions. As I showed in my constructive case, over 80% of all drop outs leave due to financial problems. This evidence talks specifically about less affluent community college students. If students from low income backgrounds struggle to pay community college tuition, encouraging them to attend a four year institution where tuition rates quadruple is a bad idea. Moreover, if the college is more rigorous, it inhibits the student from being able to successfully juggle work and school, furthering the idea that free tuition in community and technical schools is a good thing for the low income individuals in America.

Now, I'll move on to talk about why it is a good idea for the government to institute this resolution.

Con's argument doesn't really make sense because he is essentially saying that making decisions is a bad idea because it's impossible to know the consequences of any given policy. This doesn't even justify his own ideal government because it's impossible for a government to fulfill it's role without some degree of cost-benefit analysis. He starts out with an example that weighs 100 deaths against 100,000,000 severe injuries as a critique on consequentialism, saying that it's impossible to weigh these two harms against eachother. This is because these harms are in entirely different categories. Looking at the topic at hand, all the impacts can be weighed against eachother fairly easily. For example, the economic impacts clearly swing in the favor of the pro and it's very straightforward to compare economic benefit because one must just look to the side that achieves a net gain. Social impacts clearly swing in the favor of the pro as well and it's fairly straightforward to predict an increase in graduates and overall quality of life after implementation of this policy.

Con then shifts over to claiming that objective rights exist, and that the government ought to focus only the preservation of human rights. The burden lies with pro, not me, to establish that objective rights actually exist because without this being established, the protection of rights is just as arbitrary as anything else. Looking at the current state of the government, it is important to realize that there will always be trade offs. For example, people have to be taxed to provide an a police force that protects anyone, rather than just those who can afford it. Thus, it's advisable to choose policies that render the best trade offs, when taking into account the political dynamics of America. Even if you buy con's framework claiming that the government's only plausible role is the protection of human rights, observe that this is a hefty duty to fulfill. The government naturally will need to institute policies that cause economic gain if they are to provide services that promote protection of human rights. Given the multiple pragmatic benefits stemming from funding free tuition, including less crime and welfare, as well as large amounts of economic gain, free tuition is worth instituting because such policies are needed to protect citizen's rights. Con is currently failing because he hasn't established that objective rights even exist, or that the government has a means of protecting these objective rights.


Genghis_Khan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


extend. i am very sorry to see my opponent forfiet :(


Genghis_Khan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
30 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by AdmiralAsap 2 years ago
The over-specialization argument was really good. sad to see the deabte ended so soon
Posted by debatability 2 years ago
So did I hahaha I wrote out my argument in like 15 minutes though so im pretty sure he could have obliterated it...
Posted by ShabShoral 2 years ago
Damn, I wanted to see how he would handle that.
Posted by debatability 2 years ago
why did you deactivate ?!?!?!?!?!
Posted by Genghis_Khan 2 years ago
Alright, that makes sense.

I overreacted. Sorry.
Posted by ShabShoral 2 years ago
Yes, this is bossy.

The argument against Util is fine (Util is an incredibly weak philosophy). The thing is that you basically just said "Util doesn't work, so we should just follow something simple, like rights", which is pretty arbitrary. It's an unwarranted leap that you could have done better.

You may be able to fix it, yeah, and it doesn't really matter if you can hold on to util being wrong, since, if util is wrong, none of pro's case really matters. You haven't lost yet by a long shot.
Posted by Genghis_Khan 2 years ago
next* round
Posted by Genghis_Khan 2 years ago
actually, you're right... I made a huge jump from "util sucks" to "minimalist gov rocks".
oh well. I'll fix that last round.

but still, fvck off lol
Posted by Genghis_Khan 2 years ago
and tbh running the NAP is really boring. It's the same stupid, debate-derailing discussion every time.
I just felt like experimenting a bit with this argument. It's actually just an extension of Grape's "economic calculation" argument, which he always used to translate violations of the NAP/Free Market guidelines into utilitarian harms
Posted by Genghis_Khan 2 years ago
lol it wasn't even a "justification of rights"... it was more of a rejection of consequentialism.
if needed, I'll go ahead and actually justify rights next round.

you're bossyburrito, correct?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by orangutan 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Con forfeited two rounds. Pro responded to all of Con's arguments.