With the constant upward slope of tuition and fees, the financial system of higher education needs to be addressed.
Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed state budget cuts to higher education brought back terrible memories for me. In 2008-09, I attended SUNY Albany in the midst of the New York’s financial meltdown. Before winter break, the university announced a rise in tuition, and my tuition bill increased by $1,130.
To make matters worse, I had already exceeded my financial aid award package. I remember being in complete disbelief, asking myself how could they increase tuition and expect people to financially adjust in the middle of the year.
The only choice I had was to take out an additional loan so that I would be able to resume classes in the spring. Ultimately, I transferred to Temple, where I have the advantage of paying in-state tuition.
However, I may be faced with the same circumstances again, and I can’t afford to sign my name away on another unexpected promissory note. The recently proposed budget cuts could impact everyone. Students will continue to incur serious debt.
According to Michael Snyder of Businessinsider.com, Americans owe more than $875 billion in student loans – more than the total amount Americans owe on their credit cards.
Furthermore, the cost of college tuition and fees has gone up by more than 400 percent since 1982 – what he calls the “great college education scam.” Those are not statistics we should continue to ignore or tolerate.
Undoubtedly, there is a problem with our financial aid system, and no one seems to be speaking up about it. As tuition increases, federal and state funding to universities decreases.
There is an imbalance that exists as well: There are too few jobs available for the increasing number of college graduates. Most college grads end up underpaid, thus tied to their student loan debts longer.
College is doing more harm than good. We are paying far more for less. If you aren’t privileged enough to have your parents finance your education, you’re stuck with loans you can’t erase, not even through bankruptcy.
As students, we need to take back our universities and collectively demand change through social activism. Students are doing it here and abroad.
On Dec. 9, 2010, thousands of student protestors gathered in Parliament Square in London to speak against Britain’s Parliament proposal to nearly triple university tuition fees, according to the Boston Globe. One student’s picket sign read, “There are some things money can’t buy … for education, there’s MasterCard.”
Debra Leigh Scott, a Mosaic adjunct professor, is an advocate for social activism.
“The first step is educating themselves about the full extent of the financial obligation they’ll be suffering should they take out loans,” Scott said. “A debt of $120,000 could require a payback of $750,000 over 30 years, for instance.”
“Finally, the students should stand with faculty, who [have] been calling for free public education for years,” Scott added.
It is time students everywhere start fighting for their educational rights. All throughout our country, education is being slashed drastically while our generation becomes more subservient. Everyone should be entitled to a quality education without the burden of a heavy debt.
Scott left me thinking, “If higher education is an absolute necessity, as it is constantly said, then how can it be commodified? Shouldn’t it then be a right?”
It is student social activism that will get our voices heard and signal to leaders that we are aware of the current educational injustice, and that we will not tolerate it.
You can start by writing to your representative by visiting https://house.gov/writerep or support movements on Facebook like Default: the Student Loan Documentary, which can be found at https://facebook.com/DefaultMovie.
Kierra Bussey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.