Op-Ed — College education: Expensive but empowering

By Chandlee Crawford

“Education is not the means of showing people how to get what they want. Education is an exercise by means of which enough men, it is hoped, will learn to want what is worth having.” – President Ronald Reagan.

We’ve known for a long time that the cost of a college tuition is growing, while the hope of holding that coveted slip of paper with your name on it declaring you an accomplished graduate disappears for more and more people.

People seem to treat rising college tuitions like a regular inconvenience. Considering the average student debt after college is about $40,000, it’s a wonder why people don’t think about it more. The problem is, the price is out of reach for many people and the price is only growing.

A CBS news article noted that students at public four-year institutions paid an average of $3,190 in tuition for the 1987-1988 school year, with prices adjusted to 2017 dollars. That average has grown to $9,970 for the 2017-2018 school year, an increase of 213 percent.

Private schools are no better off. Why are college prices growing? There are many factors involved from the way universities look for promising students, to the great recession affecting subsidies.

This doesn’t mean you should avoid college. Go to college, kids, trust me. If you don’t, just look at Georgetown University’s Report on Job Growth and Education Requirements through 2020: “Employers are still willing to pay more for the college degree – a symbol of a worker’s attainment of the knowledge, skills, and abilities that improve productivity… workers with post-secondary education earn 74 percent more than workers with a high school diploma or less. Among those with full-time, full-year jobs, the wage premium rises to 82 percent.”

Moreover, 65 percent of U.S. jobs require post-secondary education and training, up from 28 percent in 1973. So, yeah, I recommend college as a valuable resource at this time.

In class recently, we read former President Barack Obama’s 2004 speech to Democratic National Convention. I have to hand it to Mr. Obama, he said something that stuck: “In a generous America, you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential.”

I’m not saying we turn to communism for the answer. I’m saying that your wealth – or lack thereof – should never hold you back in this land of opportunity devoted to the pursuit of happiness and individual liberties.

Innovation has always decided who survives, what empire stands, who lives an easier life. Even now, protesters march on the streets across the country. If you don’t understand them, learn. If you’re marching, know your cause. We are a democracy.

If we truly are expected to have power in our government, then we should know how to make the best decisions for ourselves. A college education would help with that, but with prices rising, fewer will reach that level of understanding.

We need accessible education available to anyone willing to work for it if we truly want to keep up in the world. Currently, we are going backwards from any progress we have made toward this goal.

Message to our government: If you want to do what is best for the people you represent, help empower and educate them.

Hinesburg resident Chandlee Crawford is a sophomore at CVU High School.

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