College and Money: Where does it end?

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Issue 9, Volume 112

By Khandaker Mushfikuzzaman 

Bob Dylan once said, “All the money you make will never buy back your soul.” It is our souls that money seems to be taking, especially when it comes to college. In a world driven by material wealth, so-called “higher education” consumes a lot of it. The practical purpose of education is to reach progressive levels, meaning a good middle school education will supposedly lead to a great high school one, an even greater college education, and an outstanding career. This circle of money needs to end by making colleges free.

Education is vital. However, our society is centered around wealth. While primary school education is free, students with only a high school education are unable to get a suitable career fitting the demands of a world that can only be answered by money. This point is where college comes in, but at a high cost. The average private college tuition per student per year is around $38 thousand, while the average American has an annual wage of about $51 thousand. Colleges expect students to make around 75 percent of the average American’s wage at 18 to get an education, which forces the majority of students to take student loans that are $30 thousand for recent college graduates on average. One must pay to get an education to get a job, yet many end up with student debt and a position that barely covers it. Life is made out to be a simple equation: a good education equals a good career equals a good house and ultimately a good life, but it often isn’t so clear-cut.

A solution implemented by colleges as a remedy for high costs is providing scholarships for students who deserve a higher education but face monetary instability. However, the limited space and strict demands only create extra pressure to obtain scholarships, causing many to miss out. Less than one percent of students receive a complete grant, making scholarships an ineffective solution.

The combination of the strain of financial conflict, heavy weight of education, and urgent feeling of stabilizing one’s private life is unbearable to the point where students ask, “How is this worth it?” Colleges aren’t providing the help that these students need, and the pandemic only made matters worse. COVID-19 made education challenging for everyone, especially college students. With an economic crash, even the part-time jobs that college attendees worked to pay off student loans became unavailable.

However, making a college education free can put an end to this ceaseless loop of money. With no student debt, students will be free to pursue the careers they studied for. President Joe Biden put forward a plan to make public, four-year college free for students whose families make less than $125 thousand a year. This initiative did not come to fruition, as the original $111 billion proposal for higher education decreased to $40 billion in Biden’s new spending plan in October 2021. Therefore, it’s more important than ever that the government works toward making college free. It would create equality for students nationwide. Closing this opportunity gap would also boost the economy as more students attend college and eventually work at higher-paying jobs. Furthermore, the income gap will be less pronounced; when college is made accessible to both the poor and wealthy, so is the range of careers, allowing for a balanced earning field.

The money to make college free would have to come from the same place that public middle and high schools get funding from: taxes. Taxing the rich more effectively and redistributing federal funds can contribute to the daunting task of making college free. The 11 percent ($754.8 billion) of federal spending on the military in 2021 compared to the 4 percent ($296.6 billion) spent on education captures some of the priorities of our government. Though it would take a large sum of money to make college free for 19.6 million annual students (approximately $744.8 billion), it’s certainly possible for the government to redistribute funds by cutting costs from the military and judiciously taxing the rich in order to make college more accessible. With contributions from state funds and colleges themselves, making college free is a likely possibility.

Students need to advocate for the government to make colleges attainable for all in order to put an end to the tyranny of money and set up an easier path to create a more adequate and meaningful life.