In response to Robert Rodriguez's letter "Pay for your own education" (8/4/16), it is much easier said than done.
The previous generation had good wages, low cost college tuition and lower cost of living; my generation has the opposite: low wages, high cost college tuition and higher cost of living. In 2006, the college tuition for the Cal State system was $2,550 and last year it was $5,472 (and that's for an undergrad degree, not including books and dorm expenses). Within a decade, it more than doubled with fewer classes being available; imagine how much it will be in another ten years? I’m sure the college tuition for the UC system is much higher and has most likely increased as well.
Students have the option to work while they attend college, but with the current minimum wage, the cost of living and college tuition being high, those students will still have to take out student loans to pay for college. I for one did work full time while attending college full time, but I was lucky, I worked jobs that paid higher than minimum wage and I lived at home; not every student gets the same opportunity. Even though I worked full time, I still had to take out student loans (but not as much as my classmates).
When I graduated from college, it was during the Great Recession, and jobs were not widely available. I continued in the same line of work I did during college and picked up a second full time job to pay off my student loans, while the classmates I graduated with were lucky enough to find a part time job that paid just above minimum wage and had a much higher student loan to pay off (some of them are still paying off their loans to this day).
Although the Great Recession has passed, college graduates today are not guaranteed a job. Many jobs require experience for a specific position, usually obtained through an internship or even volunteering, but if that student had to work during college, it makes it difficult to to do an internship.
Military service, as you mentioned, is an option to get a free education, but you have to know that not every person cannot join the military for one reason or another. Making college free may or may not be the answer to solve the issue, but something needs to be done to make college affordable like it used to be and make the interest rate low on student loans.