Educational Issues in United States


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Solving the Debt Problem

Almost everyone goes to college in this day and age. People believe you can’t get a good job without a degree. But then we face that crippling debt after graduation. What can be done about the increasing collective student debt? Why has it gotten this bad?

In this essay, I describe the competitive playground college tuition costs have become and show that these prices can and should be lowered. I begin by describing other authors’ opinions on the topic and why they believe what they do. I go on to describe the unnecessary luxuries colleges spend funding on and how those can be cut. I mention that free tuition is not the goal, and a system like that will not work, but prices must decrease. I break down why students can’t just take out a student loan. Then, I face what the universities have to say. I find the faults in their luxury facilities plan. Some people say if you can’t afford college, you shouldn’t go. I go into why that is also faulty. And finally, I explain why college won’t become overpopulated after a tuition decrease.

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Much has been published on both sides, either supporting or opposing higher education being free. Tom Price from CQ Researcher gives a factual overview as to why tuition is free in some European schools and shows that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Adam Davidson from the New York TImes opposes the current trends in college tuition, who actually suggests we raise tuition costs for the upper-class to create more aid for the middle and lower classes. Lamar Alexander from The Wall Street Journal denies there’s a problem at all, saying grants and aid makes higher education well within reach of all Americans. Tom Lindsay from Forbes acknowledges what Alexander says, but opposes it harshly, calling Alexander “out of touch with the average American”.

Many universities spend more than they really need to on athletics and luxury facilities. Building and maintaining these programs create high and continuously growing tuition costs. Students shouldn’t be paying extravagant amounts for athletics if they are not participating in athletics. Students participating in athletics often receive large scholarships from the school they are attending. Those students could be paying the same amount as everyone else, but instead be paying for the athletic program. Also, students do not need luxury facilities. Yes, they are very appreciated, but if the building and maintaining of these facilities outrageously increases the cost to attend, especially when on-campus room and board is often required for the first year, these are not necessary. If it does not fit in the regular budget, it does not need to be implemented (Price 972).

College doesn’t need to be free. European schools prove that that is not a cure-all. The cost of living is high, so students end up in debt paying for housing, food, and books. Just because tuition is free does not mean school is free. Also, the tuition is paid by the government. With the U.S. in as much debt as they are, having all of tuition coming from the government would put the U.S. further in debt, likely to increase taxes, which would be more out of pocket for the student. Schools would feel free to make their tuition anything they’d like because as long as there are students, the government will cover the costs, or at least cushion the blow to students. With just a drop in tuition costs, which can be managed by a change in budget and spending, the burden of debt can be eased or removed completely (Price 976).

With tuition being so high, most families have no choice but to take out student loans. These loans are difficult with the purpose of preventing people from cheating the system: taking out loans, getting and education, and then never paying them back. These loans are high, and difficult to pay back, but never quit. They are one of the few loans that stick with the borrower through bankruptcy and occasionally death. The logic behind this makes sense, but why not enforce this with every loan? It makes seeking an education seem punishable. If student loans are treated as a punishment, then the cost of education should not cost enough to require loans. In the words of Lyndon B. Johnson, “This nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American.” (Price 974, 978).

The current system for federal or state aid does not make education any more affordable. The current, means-based, system bases the aid off of family income, which counts out the lower class almost completely and squeezes as much as possible out of the middle class, only granting them the ability to take out loans and not benefit from federal scholarships. Modifications need to be made to this system as well as the overall costs to attend because it’s counting out the majority of students (Price 970).

Some universities back up their extravagant spendings by claiming that beautifying the campus and facilities makes donators more likely to donate and donate more. One university claimed the president hosts enough dinner parties with donors to warrant upgrading the president’s house to make donors donate more. This isn’t true. If a donor stands by the school, they would donate at their leisure, and the state of the facilities should have little to do with it (Price 972).

Critics have responded to the uprising of disgruntled college students and families with: if a student cannot afford college, they just shouldn’t go. There are plenty of careers that don’t require a degree. However, it’s proven that college degrees and further education allows for careers with higher pay and more opportunity for promotion/raises. Education is a right (Price 971).

Critics say that colleges and universities will not grow in population if costs were cut. They say, instead, that all locations will become more selective in the admissions process. First of all, this is doubtful. If aid is covering the majority or all of attendance, regardless of the cost of attendance, why wouldn’t colleges and universities increase their population? That’s more money in their pockets. Yes, there will be a maximum capacity, but they are surely not there now. Also, the problem at hand is availability of education. Education is not available to everyone. Aid would make it available to those who strive for it; those who want it. If anything, it would lessen the amount of students who enroll and don’t care or drop out (Price 970).

In conclusion, colleges and universities need to double check their current budgeting and spending, and the government needs to check itself and how much they are granting to both schools and students. They don’t need to make tuition completely covered for everyone, but they are standing on shore watching family after family drown trying to swim to shore. Throw them a life preserver. Make education available to those who want it.

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