This piece was reported on through my study abroad experience in Rosario, Argentina. A shortened version of the article was published as a freelance piece in The Register Guard.
Twenty-year-old Laura Stevens shoves piles of unfolded clothes into her duffle bag. Her apartment room becomes barren as she packs away her life in Eugene.
After two years of attending her dream college, the University of Oregon, Stevens no longer can afford the recently increased out-of-state tuition costs. To save money for her family and the college aspirations of her two younger brothers, she’s forced to leave Eugene and transfer to the University of Charleston in her home state of South Carolina. College tuition rates across the United States continue to increase each year, placing tremendous amounts of stress on students and their families. For example, as of May 26, the UO was given approval to increase its out-of-state tuition costs by 2 percent for the 2017-18 school year.
“The increase in tuition has put a major strain on my life in almost all regards,” Stevens said. “It’s increasingly frustrating to feel like I’ve been given a major handicap on my education, something I’ve always enjoyed and succeeded at, just because my family doesn’t have the money. Now I have to leave everything I’ve built up and achieved at my first school and go to another school that I never planned to attend.”
The state of Oregon is attempting to give students free higher education opportunity through its recently initiated Promise Grant — a “last-dollar program,” according to Oregon.gov. The Promise Grant gives students the opportunity of free community college tuition, after consideration of their accepted Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) agreement combined with their family’s placement on the state income scale.
This solution helps only a small portion of students — those who are residents of Oregon and attend community colleges. With such a hefty reward attached and a limited number of available recipients, competition for the scholarship is steep.
Even though the Oregon Promise is a step in the right direction, it leaves the majority of students, especially those from out of state, still trapped under college tuition costs.
Six thousand and six hundred miles south of Eugene, Argentina has already taken a giant leap in this direction.
Take Agostina Garibaldisits, a 23-year-old student of medicine. Garibaldistis doesn’t have to worry about tuition costs at the National University of Rosario because, since the 1940s, Argentina offers all students free public higher education. University fees and teacher salaries are instead paid by the government from federal taxes.
“I think that it is OK that the university is free,” said Garibaldi. “I think that not all the people have the opportunity to pay for the expensive education.”
According to SantaFe.gov, Argentina’s Ministry of Education bases its education policy on three main pillars: quality, inclusion and coexistence.
Maria Ferreri, a Spanish and English teacher in Rosario, believes this free-tuition education system has created a balance of the three pillars, allowing the people of Argentina to become more accepting of everyone in and out of the country. Anyone from countries outside of Argentina can also come and take advantage of this free education.
“It has to do with our history,” said Ferreri. “with immigration. The idea was to make everyone feel Argentinian, to make everyone feel a part. Everyone could learn, but at the same time the immigrants would not be speaking their own languages, everyone at school had to be speaking Spanish. You had that feeling of belonging here.”