Free college tuition, but with a price

Attending college is more than just getting a grade. It’s about learning ways to approach the world.

Starting fall 2016, the Texas State University System, along with the help of Modern States Education Alliance, will introduce a program titled “Freshman Year for Free.”

Despite the relief it could bring to students’ wallets, “Freshman Year for Free” is a flawed program that doesn’t capture the essence of college.

The program is designed for non-traditional students — individuals who didn’t have access to college-credit courses in high school or working adults entering college.

“Freshman Year For Free” allows them to earn up to one full year of college credit at no cost through online courses offered by edX, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform.

Students in the program can select freshman-level courses from the Modern State catalog. Once students complete the courses, they will pay $90 per class to take an Advance Placement or College Level Examination Program to help determine if they receive the credit or not.

The program is intended to cut tuition cost. Based on data by the Institute for College Access & Success, 59 percent of people in Texas have student loan debt.

Providing free college is a great idea, but online classes are not the ideal way to start off the first year of school. There is a big difference between going to class on campus and taking a class online.

Educause Review revealed a study on Coursera, another MOOC platform found that only 50 to 60 percent of students returned after the first two weeks of class, and only 5 percent of the students officially complete a course.

First-year college students lack self-discipline, which is vital to endure online classes. On campus, if students feel lost on an assignment, they have the opportunity to ask questions in class and seek help.

Online classes lack instant assistance, potentially pushing them to drop or fail. Taking online classes during the first semester feels like work or another year in high school to some, and destroys the philosophy of what makes college eminent.

College is more than just assignments, essays and tests. Anyone can pick up a book, learn a few terms and get educated. What makes college notable is the community.

Online classes lack the intimate and social aspects of college. Students gather from diverse communities and share different ideas. A lecture from a professor can inspire a student to look at the world differently, and friendships can develop through clubs and events.

Because something is free doesn’t mean it’s the appropriate idea. In order for students to figure out if college is right for them, they need to be able to experience the full package. “Freshman Year for Free” is a step in the right direction toward cutting tuition costs, but it won’t help students succeed.

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