Guest Column: Universities nationwide need cost reform to maintain education opportunity

Oriana Pawlyk

The current state of our country leaves economists, analysts and politicians to question, “What are we doing wrong?” and “What can be done to fix it?” One thing that many neglect to factor in is the poor and declining education system all across the U.S.

The content of class work needs to improve, but at least those who choose to have an education of any value pursue it because they can afford to. If education were more affordable, this country could easily see reduced ramifications produced from less-than-average choices.

According to a CNN article, “Why does college cost so much?” back in 2009, “spending by Americans for post-secondary education totaled $461 billion, an amount 42% greater than in 2000, after accounting for inflation. This $461 billion is the equivalent of 3.3% of total U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and an amount greater than the total GDP of countries such as Sweden, Norway and Portugal.”

And it’s only gotten worse. The American higher education system needs cost reform, as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed in a speech earlier last week. Sure, many of us at Miami University attend because our parents have made arrangements to pay for our tuition, but in the long run, when those students are paying back loans on their own in a few years, we will all see just how much and how ridiculous some of those fees are.

The article also stated that “college seniors who borrow to finance their education now graduate with an average of $24,000 in debt, and student loan debt now tops credit card debt among Americans.”

The number of college graduates goes beyond the number of job opportunities — students are resorting to taking a job just “to settle,” but not what they’re really qualified for. While I may only earn a bachelor’s degree here, it is more suitable for me to coincide with a profession that highlights what I’ve studied at Miami for the last four years; I would never and could never settle for a job being a retail employee or working at a restaurant just because it “pays the bills,” but, unfortunately, that is what most Americans have settled for.

Bottom line, students, faculty and staff should always ask questions about university spending. If you run a university like a business, you should value the customers, in this case, the students. Just because you’d like to be “selective” doesn’t also mean pleasing constituents such as university trustees, alumni, etc., needs to be a major priority in university spending — think of the students who are here to learn and what their finances are going to.

If these problems aren’t addressed, not only at Miami but also all over the country, we will have an America with an increased rate of uneducated people, leading to an increased crime rate, increased number of people living on welfare, etc. The repercussions are devastating. Education is and should always be the number one value for all — it doesn’t ever hurt to learn, but if people are discouraged because it will hurt their bank accounts, then America should no longer be valued as “the land of opportunity.”

More can be found here.

Oriana Pawlyk is from Miami University, via UWIRE.