Making college free was a big topic early in this presidential campaign season, though it’s faded a little bit now. Feministing has recently published a story called “Making college free won’t fix my problems with academia” by Barbara Sostaita. In this piece, Sostaita explains how the cost of college is “only the first obstacle low-income and students of color face in our academic journeys.” She discusses the (many, many) cultural barriers, including campus buildings with overtly racist names, policies with sexist and racist histories, alienation through perpetuation of model minority narratives, lack of diversity in faculty, and more.
I think this might be the smartest article I’ve read on the subject of free college.
I’m not a proponent of free college, myself. (But affordable, accessible college–certainly!) I could give you a whole list of reasons why, but that’s not the point. The more important takeaway here is that the cultural barriers Sostaita describes are elitist, racist, sexist. These barriers are very, very wrong and very, very real. Instead of focusing on free college, perhaps we should focus on creating productive environments for students who are already at university and are struggling because they don’t see people like themselves in the faculty, because they’re facing an onslaught of microaggressions every day, because the system is built against them. Let’s start there.