Life and debt

By Amanda Dennis

Many of the people in the Occupy Wall Street protests have shouted out against the huge debt incurred by students. Many undergraduates pay over $50,000 a year to attend private colleges. At New York University, the costs of attending can come close to $60,000 a year. How is it fair that we have to pay such absurdly high prices for an education that has now become a necessity?

Without a college education it is hard to find a well-paying job, and often people who did not go to college are deemed to be part of a lower social class by society.  A Bachelor’s degree has become the equivalent of what a high school diploma was for our parents; this difference is evident in when one looks at salary wages. Plenty of our parents did not attend colleges or universities, and today, they have high paying jobs. But today a Bachelor’s degree is needed for many entry-level positions and now a Master’s or even a Doctorate degree is necessary in order to stand out on a job application for higher-level positions.

Education empowers and builds character. There should not be such a large price tag that comes along with it.  Accompanying these excessively high price tags is a huge amount of loan debt.  The amount of debt young people have incurred is so much more than it was just a few generations ago. The student loan debt in America has now reached $830 billion which is a huge jump from the $12 billion of government guaranteed student loans in the 1980s.  And according to the Jan. 11 article “Primer on The Student Loan Debt Bubble,” “student loan debt is growing at the rate of $90 billion a year.” The price of a college education is an injustice. Many people do not have the means to pay for tuition, and there are not enough loans to go around.  Many students incur such a huge debt because their loans and scholarships are decreased or taken away over the course of their four years at school.

Additionally, several prestigious and private universities jack up their prices because they are aware of their excellent reputations. This makes it impossible for some students who were accepted into these universities to attend them.  A student who must attend a safety school because of price is looking at a decision that could ultimately harm chances of getting certain high paying jobs over students applying out of the Ivy League.

Many colleges are continuing to raise tuition prices and cutting programs at the same time. A lot of this is due to state budget cuts. At the University of Albany, SUNY there have been $1.4 billion in state budget cuts over the past four years. This has caused the university to raise tuition by $300 a year for the next five years and cut the French, Russian, theater, Italian, and classics departments. If the state continues to cut the school’s budget, more departments will likely see cuts in staffing, funding or even the program altogether may be cut. This will limit students’ educational options even while they are paying higher prices to receive it.

All college educations should be priced fairly so that any student who is accepted into a university can attend it. College educations cater to the wealthy or the extremely poor; only students who can afford to pay the tens of thousands of dollars or who can get heavy need-based scholarships can take on the burden of such costs.  The rich, in turn, graduate from universities, enter higher-paying jobs, and thus “earn” more wealth, while the middle class struggles to afford post-secondary education and step up the economic ladder.

It is no surprise to me that Occupy Wall Street protesters have picked up a chant against student debt.  This problem needs to be addressed now because it will play a huge role in America’s future. Future generations are going to be living in debt, which will not aid in the nation’s economic situation. Such a scenario will only add to the recession and hurt the country’s livelihood.


Amanda Dennis is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]