On Wednesday evening Marsh Hall Residence Life hosted the "Great College Debate" in which students discussed whether college tuition should be free in the U.S.

Head Residents Geoff Bruno and Kobie Crosley served as the moderators for the event in Ukrop Auditorium, while three other students, Mason Zadan, Zach Perry and Tyler Lipositz, took the stage as panelists. 

Kevin Cherry, associate professor of political science, and Nathan Snaza, a professor in the English department, assisted with the creation of the questions for the panelists, Bruno said.

Turnout for the event was low but the event proceeded on schedule at 6 p.m.

Zadan, a freshman panelist, said he would take a more libertarian and conservative perspective on the issue. Disagreeing with the statement that tuition should be free, he called for the reduction of federal government subsidies to bring down what he believed were the raised college costs the government caused.

Citing a statement from the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Zadan said, “These schools know that the government is paying, so they know that there is a certain amount of money that now these [students] have that they didn’t have before, so they artificially raise these [school costs] significantly.”

Perry, a senior, supported free collegiate tuition. 

He referred to President Obama’s proposal for free community college as a decent option and spoke of the holistic societal benefits beyond just monetary value that come with increased levels of higher education.

Lipositz, a senior, opposed free tuition and discussed a dislocation between the people that received the benefits of free education and the people that were paying the costs, which would only worsen by making tuition free. He said the U.S. national college dropout rate was 40 percent, and that it was an indicator of potential waste of federal funds if more taxpayer money went into government subsidies for tuition.

Debates over whether education is a human right, the U.S. allocation of funds between the military and the education system, student loans and interest rates and ideal models of education systems were discussed. The panelists and audience members also discussed questions as to whether everyone was suited for college in the first place and the signaling effect of a college degree for employers in this day and age.

Tallies counted after the debate showed that the majority of those attending agreed with Zadan, who did not think tuition should be free.

Bruno said he had chosen the topic of free tuition because of the increased popularity and discussion about the issue, especially during the 2016 election when candidate Bernie Sanders proposed tuition-free public universities.

“I wanted to pick something provocative enough and something that we often don’t see the other side of the story of," Bruno said.

Contact reporter Arrman Kyaw at arrman.kyaw@richmond.edu