While Americans are used to the public education system being free throughout the K-12 years, more and more private and charter schools are popping up across the nation, giving families an alternative to public education during these years. However, these options do cost extra money. Although students have the option to attend public schooling during their pre-college years, higher education is not free in the United States. In most cases, students are expected to pay for their own college tuition. While some may argue that free education provides equal opportunities for everyone, it does have its disadvantages.
Parental and Personal Involvement
When someone has to pay for either their own or their child's education, they become more involved in the entire education process. In the K-12 system, when a parent pays for their child's education instead of sending them to public school, they expect to get their money's worth. Parents who send their children to private school typically spend more time helping their children with homework, following up on assignments, and communicating with teachers. Private schools' Board of Directors are often made up of parents. When parents feel they have more of a say of what goes on in the classroom, they are more likely to actively participate. In the higher education system, students who pay for all or part of their education are more likely to value it versus those whose parents pay for their entire education. Paying for one's own education helps students learn responsibility as well as work harder to get good grades.
Public schools often have large class sizes due to limited funding. Paying for a private education ensures that class sizes are kept small. Small classes are better for children --- not because of how teachers teach --- but because students feel they have more time with their teacher and classmates. This perception in children leads them to be more successful. A recent study found that smaller classes improved student achievement overall (see Reference 1).
When education is federally funded, there are specific guidelines the institution and the teachers must follow. This limits academic freedom, or the ability of the teachers to teach what they think is best for the students to learn. The American Association of University Professors states, "Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition." With government involvement, academic freedom could suffer.
Free education means that everyone pays higher taxes in order for the government to provide this opportunity. Those who don't use the opportunity would be forced to pay for something they wouldn't benefit from.