Opinion: How universal basic income can help student finances and grades

How $1,000 a month could benefit students in more ways than one

With student loan debt rising exponentially, a proposed program called Universal Basic Income could aid students in managing finances during their studies and help improve grades.

Anyone who has been following the Democratic primary debates has likely heard of the Freedom Dividend proposed by Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur and current candidate in the Democratic primaries. Yang’s proposed plan is a form of UBI.

The program gives a monthly cash payment to individuals regardless of their needs or employment. Yang’s specific program would guarantee every U.S. citizen over the age of 18 who opts into the system a payment of $1,000 every month.

This program has the potential to be highly beneficial to all Americans regardless of their political leanings or current income. 

The principle of UBI is not as left-leaning as one might think. In the conservative state of Alaska, residents already receive a type of UBI in the form of an annual dividend in the amount of $1,000 to $2,000, paid for by the taxation of oil and gas revenue.

A form of UBI was also proposed by former Republican President Richard Nixon, when he wanted to grant every low-income family a guaranteed $1,600 a year, which today would be about $10,000 a year. The studies under Nixon’s campaign showed that families who received this benefit did not work less than before.

Receiving the monthly stipend from Yang's program would help reduce students' stress when it comes to finances. Some students need to work during college to afford ASU, pay for books and afford a social life — all while managing coursework.

Even financially stable students could benefit from the program by using the stipend to fund study abroad programs or extracurricular activities that may not have been as accessible to them before. It's possible that there are few personal problems that couldn't be lessened or fixed with an influx of income to those individuals in our society.

ASU students have formed a group on campus in favor of Yang's campaign, Sparky's Yang Gang. Kyle Henden, a junior studying interdisciplinary sciences and a media liaison for the organization, said he felt that UBI is not a "magic bullet" to fix our current economic problem, but it is the floor to build our path forward.

"You and I may not have the same problems, but money would likely help solve both of our problems," Henden said. 

He also mentioned he felt that with an extra $1,000 a month, people could pursue creative interests and have more security to start a new business.

“This isn’t about the money, this is about putting our faith in Americans; not corporations or the government,” Henden said.

Henden identifies as an Independent now, but was formerly a Democrat and voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

On the opposite side of the aisle, Jeremiah Willett, ASU College Republicans President and a senior political science major, expressed concern that UBI could disincentivize workforce participation. 

Willett felt that the resources could be better spent toward those that desperately need the assistance, such as people with disabilities, elderly people and veterans.

"Today we want to be incentivizing entering the workforce," Willett said. 

It's also worth noting that $1,000 a month is still not enough to live on in some areas of the country, but it is a substantial supplement which would allow people to pursue their artistic interests. For some, this means pursuing their dreams. 

Opponents of UBI may also argue that it is just another handout or that it will cost too much money, but the money will cycle back into the economy through taxation and purchases. 

Despite Willett's disagreement with the program, some conservatives are starting to lean left, like myself, who was a registered Republican before transferring to ASU and registering as an Independent.

As Yang has mentioned in speeches, many Americans flock to metropolitan centers like Los Angeles and Phoenix, including many ASU graduates, because that’s where higher paying jobs are.

With a UBI, students could take lower paying jobs in fields they enjoy, rather than higher paying jobs just to pay off student debt. Students with lower stress could have more time to focus on grades and lowering the amount of financial stress students have can help increase student success. If grades are improved, this could increase their chances for internships and careers after graduating.

In light of Sparky's Yang Gang speaking with College Republicans United on Feb. 5, now more than ever is an important time to be supportive of a UBI.

Correction: Due to an editor error, this article incorrectly stated that Andrew Yang would be at ASU. This article was updated on Jan. 31 at 12:15 to clarify that a club supporting Andrew Yang for president will be speaking with College Republicans United.


Reach the columnist at tjdonne3@asu.edu or follow @TimDonn73804728 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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