Dear Mr or Mrs. President,
Picture this: it’s November of your senior year of high school, and you’re already thinking about which colleges you’ll apply to. You start doing massive amounts of research on which schools have the programs you want, see what scholarships are available to you and you begin to get excited as you, the first of your family to ever go to college, finally get the opportunity. Then, you find out about the cost of tuition, room and board, books, and meal plans. Going to the public four year college out of state that you’d always dreamed of cost over $8,000 per year. Coming from a low income family toting than stellar grades, your only option is to take out thousands of dollars in student loans. Once you graduate, interest on these student loans help the debt grow, even with the help of a part time job. Out of college, you go into the world and look for a job with that shiny new degree of yours, only for you to struggle in finding a job. And the longer it takes for you to find a job for your degree, the larger the debt gets. All of that money you borrowed is slowly put to waste as the debt climbs to an abominable amount of which would take the rest of your life to pay off. With that image in your mind, would you ever want to go to college if you came from a middle or low income family? Unfortunately, this is the case for many who set their sights on college. It’s a flawed system, one that needs to be changed, which is why college tuition should be reduced as much as possible.
It’s no secret that college is expensive. In fact, the cost of college alone is a deterrent for students to apply. Studies done by the Middle Class Task Force found that only a little over a half of all high school graduates from middle and low income families ever enroll in college. Another study done by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission revealed that 78% of students that don’t enroll in colleges choose not to because they don’t think they can afford it. Thousands of people who would be otherwise working to achieve the degree they want and prepare for the job they wish to have can’t because of financial issues. Some would say the problem is easy to remedy, that the answer lies not in making tuition cheaper, but taking out student loans. All the students have to do is pay back the loan after they graduate and get their job. However, that process isn’t as easy as it sounds. For one, only about 25% of middle and low income students ever finish college in the first place. This means many take out loans only for the money to be wasted, leaving them in debt with only a partial education. Not to mention that the average graduate of college in 2016 owes $31,172 dollars in debt, which would take over 12 years to pay off with $200 monthly payments. Add on the 6% interest and unstable job market, and you’ve a debt trap on your hands.
You’re probably now wondering, “Well, clearly it’s a problem. But what can be done to fix it?”. Simple. The state and federal governments both need to increase funding to colleges to levy the cost of tuition and other fees. Some would say doing this is expensive, which is true. Still, there are ways to raise this money without necessarily having to do something such as hike up taxes, which would only serve to make those who don’t go to college frustrated, or fundraisers, which have a small chance of working. We need to cut funding to things that we spend too much on, like the military, and fund the things we spend far too little on, like education. We need to have the state governments cooperate as well, rearrange of the money they receive as well as pass laws to cut the cost of tuition. We need to have colleges and universities cut the cost of tuition and room and board to those who need it, those from low and lower-middle income families, and let the affluent continue to pay the full price. We need to have policies to allow those with existing student debt to be able to file for bankruptcy.
College degrees are almost deified in American culture, and open up so many more doors. Having a highly qualified, educated work base is the key to a successful economy in the future. It should stand to reason, then, that secondary education should be more readily available. Imagine a world where only the top 10% are going to college, allowing the successful to continue to be successful and those less fortunate to continue being less fortunate. This is the death of the American dream, and it’s a very real possibility if something isn’t done, and soon.