Everyone one has a right to the equal opportunities university provides
Tertiary education improves the employment prospects of individuals. Everyone is deserving of a well-paying job and the state has an obligation to ensure that everyone, not just the wealthy, has good career prospects.
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Most career paths require a university qualification in order to be employed. In an increasingly technological world, the labour force continuously undergoes mechanisation, meaning that low-skilled and manual labour is easily replaceable. The ability to make a sustainable living must be a right which everyone has access to. Otherwise only those fortunate enough to be born into wealthy families are able to financially support themselves in adulthood.
A university degree substantially increases one's employment prospects. Degrees give students specialised knowledge in a field, thus enabling them to become more attractive to employers. Therefore, there exists inequality in the status quo where fees prevent a lot of students from being able to upskill themselves. Merit should be the only determining factor in attending university, not the lottery of birth. Fees make access more difficult, leading to lower attendance by poorer groups. A lot of the brightest minds in the world stem from low-income households, but that should not prevent them from continuing their education. The removal of fees leads to equal opportunity to attend school, which is a major step towards equality. Fees further serve to lock people into the economic situation they are born, as getting out is much more difficult when denied access to most high-income jobs. Given the importance of education and achieving a more equitable society, the government has a responsibility to give everyone access.
There is no inherent right to university education. It is a service and people should have to pay for it should they desire it. The role of the government is to provide individuals with necessities, hence why primary and secondary education is free. University is not essential for an individual to be a functioning member of society so there is no obligation on the government. Secondly, there are ways in which meritocracy is prioritised over privilege in creating access to university. Students who perform well academically can get financial aid, scholarships and bursaries which enable them to continue their education. Even though alternative funding methods are imperfect, that is an argument for improving them not one for making it the responsibility of the state to ensure everyone can go to university.