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The Century Foundation and NYU Wagner are proud to present Debates of the Century @NYU Wagner, a public debate series showcasing thoughtful, informed dialogue from experts on the most vital national policy issues.

The first event in the Spring 2016 Debate Series will examine higher education. The speakers will debate the resolution:

“Public College Should Be Free.”

Post-secondary education is more important than ever for achieving success in America. As the demand for a better-educated workforce increases, so does the cost of a diploma. Should we re-examine the American system of public post-secondary education, so that tuition could be free?

Millions of American students are burdened with debt that not only affects their future savings but also influences their career choices. Would free tuition increase participation in higher education? And would it lead to a better educated, taxpaying workforce—a self-sustaining social benefit?

College loan debt has exploded to the point that, today, some 40 million student loan borrowers collectively owe more than $1.2 trillion in outstanding debt, and the average graduate who borrowed owes $29,000. Supporters of free college are not just concerned about mounting student debt; they also argue that the cost of attending school has prevented less-well-off students from enrolling or completing college, contributing to inequality. On the other hand, skeptics of the “free tuition” solution argue that pouring more taxpayer dollars into the system will only encourage colleges to charge more tuition, with no added benefit to education.

The first event will feature:

  • For the motion: Sara Goldrick-Rab, Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Founding Director at the Wisconsin HOPE Lab
  • Against the motion: Richard Vedder, Director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, and Distinguished Professor of Economics Emeritus at Ohio University
  • Moderated by: Melissa Harris-Perry, Maya Angelou Presidential Chair and Director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University and author of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

Make sure to check back for future events in the Spring 2016 Debate Series, which will also feature debates on immigration (March 29) and privacy and security (April 26).

This event is co-hosted by The Century Foundation and:

NYU Wagner

NYU Wagner has been educating and preparing the world’s future public service leaders since 1938. Our students translate personal commitment into nonprofit, public, and private sector careers that have an impact on the world’s most pressing issues. Our faculty conduct research that changes the way people frame, understand, analyze, and act on issues of public importance.