It wasn't that long ago, when free public education for Americans, became universal; for as America transitioned from an agricultural economy and rural existence into an industrial and scientific economy with large concentrations of people in cities, it was recognized that it was important to develop our children in a manner that they could and would become an integral part of the growth of that economy, as well as being literate in the sense of being able to perform at least at a minimal level, the good ability to read, write, and to do arithmetic.
The current "free" public education is primarily paid through State budgets, often in conjunction with property taxes, as well as other taxes paid into the State, and with some financial contributions from the Federal government. However, once 12th grade is completed, in most States and communities, any further education is the responsibility of the student that pursues that higher education. Some of those students receive scholarships, or grants, or subsidies of one kind or another in which their cost for collegiate education becomes for them, quite affordable. Then, there are a multitude of students that have to take out loans, either partially, or fully to fund their education, in which those loans are the responsibility of that student to pay back.
The fundamental problem with student loans, is not only the sheer dollar amount of student loans, of which according to studentloanhero.com, there is a current total of "$1.56 trillion in total U.S. student loan debt," but also, the trajectory rate of those student loans, which despite living in an era of low inflation, as well as educational breakthroughs such as technology and the internet -- which would seem to be something that would reduce costs, they have instead, skyrocketed. This means that those graduating from college, as well as those that have attended college but have never gotten around to graduating, are in very many cases, leaving college with not only a negative net worth, but an expense which can be for many, quite burdensome.
While there are a few States as well as communities, which offer some sort of collegiate education which is free, or nearly free, and may also have some contingencies attached with that education, they are in aggregate, the minority. So then, in an time in which this country has indicated that they need more and more students to graduate in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, as well as the general complaint that so many students do not graduate with job-ready skills that match today's economy and world, than this Federal government, should make it a point to come up with an agenda that would provide these High School graduates with at least, a pathway towards free higher education.
One straightforward way to provide collegiate courses would be to utilize the internet more to teach classes, in which the scaling of those classes should be far more economical than brick and mortar schools. Additionally, another way would be to provide a quid pro quo, between students and their government, by educating those students for free with a corresponding commitment by those graduates that they will thereupon serve in the government, for a period of time as a civil service obligation to their government. Finally, the biggest and richest corporations in the world are located in America, of which, a tax addressed specifically against those companies, could be structured in a manner in which by subsidizing the education of higher education students, such a tax would be paid in full.
The bottom line is that if this country truly believes that good higher education is necessary for the growth and progress of this great nation, than the least this government should do, is to provide a viable option that allows motivated students to achieve that education without having to pay directly for it.