US should follow New York’s lead
April 12, 2017
Filed under Opinions
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With New York set to become the first state to offer free tuition at public colleges and universities for students from families earning less than $125,000 a year thanks to the efforts of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, this is a good time to reflect on why the whole country should adopt the same public education structure.
Free college education has become a more controversial topic of discussion ever since Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders made it a platform issue of his presidential campaign in the last election season. Sanders’ plan was to tax Wall Street in order to fund tuition-free college education for all. This would’ve been ideal, considering how the richest 1 percent have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014, and by this year own more wealth than the other 99 percent combined, according to an Oxfam report.
About a century ago, high school went from being a luxury to a necessity. Employers began requiring a high school diploma in order to be hired for certain jobs, and suddenly everyone was completing high school. Today, the same thing is happening with college, while at the same time it’s becoming harder and harder to obtain a college degree. Every major country in the world offers a free or more affordable college education, and in Germany even international students can go and obtain a degree for free. So why don’t we have the same opportunities in the U.S.? American culture says, “everyone for themselves,” but considering how the wealth inequality keeps growing dramatically, maybe it’s time to leave that ideology behind and work toward a system that is more “all for one and one for all.”
Privatization, through outsourcing services, industry-sponsored departments and the student debt crisis, has increased costs while at the same time reducing the quality of services. The rising costs are preventing working class students from attaining a higher education. According to an analysis made by the American Council of Education in 2015, the number of low-income recent high school graduates who enroll in college has dropped significantly in the years since 2008. Another study conducted by the Equality of Opportunity Project in January of this year showed that of those students enrolled at 38 colleges in the U.S., including five in the Ivy League, more students came from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent. This gap will keep increasing over time as college costs also increase.
Americans are more burdened by student loan debt than ever, and it will keep getting worse if we don’t take action. The most recent report by the Federal Reserve System reveals that in total, the U.S. has $1.41 trillion in student loan debt. Not only that, but it also shows that the student loan delinquency rate is 11.2 percent, which includes those with 90-plus day delinquency notices or are in default. According to research conducted by the Project on Student Debt, 7 in 10 senior students who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2015 had student loan debt with an average of $30,100 per borrower.
High school education is perceived to be good for our society and that’s why it’s publicly funded. Why shouldn’t we treat college education the same way? Education is an incredibly powerful tool that has enabled women empowerment, queer resistance and even the civil rights movement, because it affects our understanding between right and wrong. As John Dewey once said, “Education is not a preparation for life. Education is life itself.”