College for Free
I decided to weigh in just a bit on the presidential election. I obviously am pretty political and sit comfortably to the left on the political spectrum. With that said, it is probably clear where I am casting my ballot in our primary and again in November. So this moment isn’t about that. I wanted to say a few things about one of the items that the candidates are discussing and its importance here.
College is expensive. If students and families are not strategic, tuition could run them somewhere around $250,000. California is so broke that the public colleges’ tuitions are increasing by 25% each year and the number of years to graduation increases and increases each year. Companies are saying that a bachelor’s degree is necessary…at minimum. And the single greatest way to ensure upward mobility is to earn a college degree.
A beginning teacher’s salary is about $44,000, and that’s in a high-paying district. People can work full-time at minimum wage and still be below the poverty line and therefore eligible for public assistance. College tuition debt cannot be written off in a bankruptcy. And the lawsuits against for-profit colleges demonstrate, at the very least, that educating students takes a backseat to making money.
I was watching one of the news shows and saw a clip from a group commenting about some of the issues brought up during that debate, including the cost of college. One of the people commented that high college tuition is important so that there is a way to differentiate among people. For her, if college is too accessible, there wouldn’t be a way to establish a hierarchy in this country.
That shocked me.
I am troubled by what passes as an allegiance to a party or candidate (it’s one of the reasons I appreciate the other perspective that I hear on the podcast that I mentioned here). College tuition is a problem. We can disagree with how we address the problem but that disagreement shouldn’t center around if the problem exists. That’s a distraction and serves to delay the conversation. And it’s frustrating because in the meantime, college tuition continues to be too expensive! That is why that tactic works so well.
Returning to her comment, I thought, well isn’t it a problem to have hierarchies so disparate that mobility is completely out of the question for a majority of people in this country? I’m not necessarily advocating for communism or completely tossing out the free market but we have huge chunks of people in this country who have to make decisions between their medication and a healthy meal, caring for a dying family member and being employed, retiring or continuing to work to support adult children’s aspirations. That’s just wrong.
Since college can make those decisions less life-altering, it shouldn’t also be so expensive.