by David T. Bruce
More people than ever are going back to college, irrespective of age. While younger students are still the norm, students in their 20s and 30s as well as older students are headed back to campuses in record numbers.
The aspiration of many parents is that their children go to college, and these numbers suggest that students leaving high school, the military, and the like believe the message that a better education will equate to a better job with better pay. Older adults are doing likewise, seeking to improve their quality of life through education.
This is what our academic and government institutions have been selling us.
The cost of obtaining this education, however, has created an economic burden for students and our society that will likely increase over time. Furthermore, the hope and the promise that a better future awaits for those who obtain a higher education is becoming nothing more than another disappointment for a working- and lower-middle-class society that wants to have a shot at economic success.
A report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests that the student loan debt in the United States currently exceeds $1 trillion, a number that eclipses America’s credit card balance.
The data further shows that middle-age students are “the fastest growing group of borrowers.” This seems to parallel the increase in middle-age adults returning to school to either improve their level of education or to retrain due to job loss.
Whereas determination and a good work ethic were once enough for a person to succeed, a piece of paper purchased from an accredited academic institution is now the only way for a person to have a chance of realizing the American dream that many of our ancestors achieved through hard work and fortitude.
Once an education would almost guarantee success in the upper-middle or upper class of society; now an education is almost mandated to enter into the middle class of society. The alternative path is the retail industry.
Academic institutions have joined hands with corporate America and the federal government to ensure that this alternative path is the choice of many, whether or not students complete their education.
An Associated Press report cites that 53.6 percent of graduates under the age of 25 with Bachelor’s degrees are without a job or are underemployed.
The majority of American citizens play by the rules in terms of meeting the requirements for employment in their career, but colleges and universities court prospective students, seeking those that fit their preferred demographic, satisfy federal student-body quotas, and most importantly, generate revenue.
Like any big business in America, colleges and universities are now most concerned with making money and staying in business.
Education, at least as far as academic and corporate executives are concerned, is of minimal consequence. As far as our federal government is concerned . . . well, it is an election year, after all. Better to have a student body indebted to you than a student body in debt.
Both President Obama and the expected Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney agree that doubling of student loan interest rates would only increase student debt, without addressing the issue of un- and under-employment. Romney is quoted as saying that “what young Americans want and need is a new president who will champion lasting and permanent policy changes that both address the rising cost of a college education and get our economy really growing again.”
Neither the President nor Romney have no idea what we want or need.
We don’t need another “champion.” We don’t need a cheerleader who proposes to know what life is like as a lower- or middle-class citizen in America. We need to assemble a group of elected officials who truly care about the education of their citizens, recognizing that it is the working class that ultimately drives the economy and not the practice of massaging numbers on Wall Street.
Our government seems to care only about the corporations (which colleges and universities are quickly becoming a fundamental part of) who fund their campaigns and ensure their ongoing political victories. These corporations want to make money, and they want a working class that will help them make their money.
An education is not necessarily required to stock shelves, wait tables, or sell inventory. Colleges and universities will take your money, though, building your hopes of a better future, while corporations simultaneously eliminate job possibilities.
The left hand does indeed know what the right hand is doing, and they are choking the life out of America.