“Two Cents” on a Growing Issue

“Two Cents” on a Growing Issue

William Thompson

Dr. Sievers

First Year Seminar

03 September 2019

“Two Cents” on a Growing Issue

Knowledge is power, but at what cost? In today’s day and age, pursuing a higher education has never come with a higher price tag. As current young adults attempt to pursue their dreams with the help of a college education, they must also face the inevitable consequences that come with joining America’s growing student debt crisis. Ironically, paying off these necessary years of additional education comes hand in hand with adding to the decline of today’s creative thinkers, inventors, and the population of those who holster the ability to change our world for the better. How can we expect members of today’s society to put themselves out there if they are faced with the pressure of finding jobs for the sole purpose of paying off their unavoidable debts? This only keeps our vast middle class at a stationary, if not lower, tier in our population and prevents our country from significant economic growth. This spiraling issue has been swept under the rug for far too long and must be recognized before our nation suffers from irreparable repercussions. 

Year by Year, college seems to be increasing their tuition fee. Parents and children are however trying to achieve the American dream which is only possible through education. It is for such reasons taking student loans has been on the rise. Education has become expensive and bills can only be paid with the help of the student loans. Federal Financial aid records have indicated that the students are taking the riskiest debt which is the unregulated private student loans. In this kind of funding, student do not have any kind of protection and may end up paying absurd interest rate (Carey, pg. 1-6). The higher education debt is on another level. In the year 1993, only about 32% of students borrowed money to attend college but now, almost every single individual in college has a student loan. Lending money to students has become a business opportunity to some. Many money lending companies have emerged. Some seem to be exploiting students with very absurd interest rates.

Often, we have argued that getting higher education translates into one getting quality education thus a guarantee to living a better life, but is this true? I believe it’s not. High tuition fees have resulted in students taking in part time jobs to try and help their parents settle some bills. Taking part time jobs means that a student needs to try and balance between school and work. The famous saying you cannot serve two masters at a time may apply here. It is high likely that the student may not be able to create a perfect balance and their academics may become affected leading to failing grades. Students are unable to create time to study or complete their studies thus by the end of the four years they may not end up receiving the quality education that we often seem to praise.

We must first discuss the “easy way” to avoid this nationwide financial crisis. Of course there is the chance of being born into a wealthy family, but how many of us can actually relate? The obvious solution: community college. In a situation easier said than done, let’s face it, we as a society tend to look down on those who “choose to stay at home” for another two years. Not only have we contributed to this societal cloud of shame, but we must also consider the other downside of community college. Four year universities are more likely to offer specialized classes and a wider scope of studies for students to explore. This increases the desire for those up and coming dreamers to attend a university in which they can discover their personal interests and undergo new social experiences (Renehan, pg. 78-90). Other thought of solutions may include scaring the children of today into participating in the American armed forces. While this of course is no decision to be looked down on, we must consider whether or not these partakers are ready for such a personally grueling experience. 

The preference towards four year universities leads us to one of the most pressing causes of the student loan crisis: rising tuition prices. As the demand for higher education increases, so does its financial damage. In recent studies, paying off your student loans has become increasingly more difficult. The past few years have shown borrowers struggling to pay just one of their monthly bills within a three-month period. Though, this pressure towards further schooling has been nearly half a century in the making. The infamous generation of baby boomers has notoriously taken a fruitful country and slowly turned it into a financial disaster waiting to happen. The large part of today’s population born between 1946 and 1964 has dug a deep enough economic hole to bury their children and leave a lasting impression on later generations (Tinto, pg. 8-125). Spending most of our country’s resources on themselves, not only has our education system suffered, but today’s college students are watching themselves fight harder than ever for a place in our world at their parent’s expense. Seeing as this growing concern does not affect them directly, this group that also pertains to the majority of active political voters lacks the passion to pursue solutions to turn their negative accomplishments around. 

The young adults of today as a result may never have time to truly enjoy the financial freedoms that our country has to offer. The irony of drowning in student loans is hard to ignore: more education in hopes for a higher-paying job, leading to descending deeper down the hole of debt, only to inevitably work longer in order to pay it all off. Overall this cycle can take you down a seemingly never-ending spiral that holds today’s young minds back from achieving their real dreams. They are forced to chase high-stress, prestigious job titles that they cannot genuinely enjoy and will eventually burn them out. Looking closer at the personal effects, as students suffer so does their credit. This only adds to the stress of becoming financially stable. These debts prevent borrowers from investing in other basic needs that affect more than just the growing student loan crisis. For example, it is not an uncommon occurrence for recent graduates to return to their childhood home and depend on their parent’s support as they slowly grow secure enough to depend on themselves. In turn, this growing, and yet convenient short-term solution may directly affect the real estate market. This same effect can be seen as the younger generations should be reaching the stage in which they should be checking off staple achievements in most people’s lives, such as buying a car on their own or starting a family. Similarly, in the grand scheme of things this overall negatively affects our country’s national economic growth. 

High tuition fees are key factor in the increased number of student drop out. Most of the students start up college with the hope that eventually they will be able to cover all the cost the associated but as they proceed they realize this may impossible for four years. Some of these students have often argued that paying the high tuition fees is not worth it eventually when they graduate and even then it is not a guarantee that they will get employment opportunities. According to the Congressional digest, high drop out of college students may be a threat to the job poll as eventually there may be employment opportunities that require expertise, but the number of people who could feel out these positions may not be enough (Congrsssional Digest, pg. 9). When everyone decides to opt for unskilled labor, what happens to careers that need expertise? According to Forbes Magazine, market demand may be weak but there are certain sectors that utilize skills that still has high demand for graduates such engineering, nursing, welding, plumbing, electrician, computer technicians and doctors. If we are not able to address the issue of affordable education, the high demand will not be catered for.

On a smaller scale, a notable chunk of our population may be facing greater consequences than the rest. Women in particular are considerably more affected than men seeing as there are more women pursuing degrees than men on average. While it is easy to commend this minority on achieving a greater sense of ambition statistically, the unforgettable wage gap prevents women from paying off their debts as efficiently as they should be expected to in comparison to men. Despite the fact that for years we have often tried to ensure equality is achieved, this has not been the case. The gender disparity can still be seen as most top positions in organizations are given to the men while the women get lower position. It is for a fact that positions determine one’s income and thus most women have a lower income than the men thus still strain to ensure that they get to pay off their loans, all their bills are catered for and they are still able to provide basic housing needs for their families.

As a country, it is important to come up with solutions that will ensure we save our students from this burden. Most students work hard to ensure they pass and secure jobs so that they can enjoy life but paying off student loans does not make this easy. First as a nation we need to have a clear discussion on free public college. Often when this point is raised, it is met with a lot of resistance. When we talk of free tuition college, it doesn’t have to completely translate to free education where students pay nothing at all. What if students do not have to pay tuition fees but can pay for other charges such as accommodation, books, and other college charges. With the revenue that the government collects, I believe there needs to be a budget allocation for university funding to ensure universities are able to run their day to day activities but at the same time are able to provide quality education to the students at a lower cost. The college may not even be free but rather subsidized to a certain amount.

Free college education has often been met with resistance that quality of education will decline. My greatest question to this argument is understanding how the quality of education declines, does it decline because more people will be able to get university admission or does it decline because the universities are unable to run their day to day activities? If it is the former, then the solution is expansion of facilities to ensure that everyone is accommodated. A growth in economy is contributed by an increase in the literacy level of its citizens as this ensures that more people are literate thus can secure jobs and there is also a high likelihood of getting more inventions. It is for a fact that most third world countries are not as developed because the illiteracy levels are high. Ensuring that everybody is able to get an undergraduate degree not only benefits the individual but is also a benefit to the nation (Wiener, pg. 224-226). There have been nations that have been able to implement free college education successfully without altering the quality of education. Some of these nations that we can borrow a leaf or two from include Norway, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Germany and France.

We need to stop looking down on community colleges as a society. As parents and education stakeholder’s students need to understand that getting a community college degree is okay and they can compete for jobs equally with those in other universities. It is sad that most students do not perceive community college as an option because many associate attending it with failing. There are very good community colleges out there that have produced good graduates excelling in their careers yet they did not have to pay so much fee. Before we attain free tuition fees in America, how about we embrace community colleges as a solution for its affordable rates? Most people look down on community colleges because they are ill equipped. It is thus important that the government both federal and state ensure community colleges are equipped and have all amenities that facilitate learning.

Conversation on making college affordable has been happening for the longest time. In the year 2015, Barrack Obama proposed making two-years of community college free to students who qualifies (Samuels, pg. 123-165). April 2019, Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed a $1.25 trillion education bill which would help eliminate tuition and fees for public universities. According to her proposal, the funding for this project would be obtain from Ultra-Millionaire wealth tax as 0.1% of Americans have over 50 million dollars in asset (Abigail). The bill did not get all the support to move forward but he fact that these conversations are happening means there is so much hope in making education affordable. This will bill to look out for in 2020 during the election campaigns. There are states that are implementing legislation that will ensure that community college is affordable. In 2017, San Francisco made community college free for everyone and the funding was to be obtained by using of tax from properties selling for more than 5 million. This has seen an increase in number of people enrolling in college.

Colleges that are offering tuition free education are also emerging. They include college of Ozark; they are able to do this through the help of donors. The students too have to work for at least 15 hours every week in the school campus. Deep Springs College also in California, a male only school offers full financial reward to its attendees. Others include Alice Lloyd College, Berea College, Curtis Institute of Music, Barkly college, Webb Institute and United State Service Academies. With emergence of such colleges, education becomes an obtainable dream There are 11 other states including Oregon, Arkansas, Nevada, Tennessee, New York, Delaware, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Indiana, Maryland and New Jersey have created programs where college students are getting free 2-year college tuition in certain community colleges. These initiatives are a great way of ensuring that getting an education in the United States does not have to be a burden.

Everyone nowadays want to pursue education to the highest levels because of the importance it is associated with. With education, individuals are able to access better jobs, better opportunities, learn new thigs, acquire new skills as well as create a platform where you can associate with other people. This dream however may be derailed by lack of money and increased tuition fees. The government needs to be a leading stakeholder in trying to ensure that students are able to pursue their dream careers without having to take up loans. Works Cited

Abigail J Hess. “51% Of Young Americans Support Tuition-Free Public College.” CNBC, CNBC, 2 Oct. 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/01/56percent-of-young-americans-support-free-public-college-how-it-might-work.html.

Carey, Erin Dillon ad Kevin. “Drowning in Debt: The Emerging Student Loan Crisis.” Charts You can Trust (2009): 1-6.

“Free Community College.” Congressional Digest, vol. 94, no. 4, Apr. 2015, p. 9. EBSCOhost, login.proxy.kennesaw.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=101913975&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Tinto, Vincent. “Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research.” Review of educational research 45.1 (1975): 89-125.

Renehan, Stewart. “Rising Tuition in Higher Education: Should we be concerned.” Visons for the Liberal Arts (2015).

Samuels, Robert. Why Public Higher EducationShould be free:. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2013.

Wiener, Jon. “Aiming Higher: Make College Tuition Free.” Nation, vol. 300, no. 14, Apr. 2015, pp. 224–226.