When You Think About It: Not Too Much To Ask

Many people are screaming bloody murder over President Joe Biden’s latest attempt at reducing the crushing student debt incurred by millions of Americans, both young and old, while receiving their college educations. The plan calls for forgiving up to $10,000 for people making less than $125,000/year and $20,000 for disadvantaged students who received so-called Pell grants.

Of course, the majority of people expressing the most outrage seem to come from the party of NO, i.e. the Republicans. However, there are many other, fair minded Americans who also believe that the measure goes too far.

Their argument generally goes something like this:

I worked 96+ hours a week while I was going to school just to pay my own tuition.

or

No one ever gave me anything! I paid my loans back. Why should I pay for anyone else’s?

or

Poor financial planning on their part does not constitute a crisis on mine. They should have planned better.

Of course, there is some validity as to what they are saying. After all, speaking very personally, that’s EXACTLY how I managed to go to college.

First, I worked regularly while I was attending Rutgers University in Newark, NJ. And, I commuted, mostly because it was cheaper. I so desperately wanted to go away to school but I realized that it was beyond my financial means. Also, the cost of my education was incredibly reasonable. When I started there in 1973, if my memory serves me correctly, I was paying about $40/credit. At the 15 credits/semester required to receive a degree that’s $600/semester!

That’s right, not including commuting costs, books, and other expenses, that’s $1200/year.

$1200!!

I would challenge anyone in America to provide the quality of education I received at Rutgers-Newark for $1200 year.

I still had to take out small loans to get by — and paid them back, with interest.

But, that’s ancient history.

Here are the numbers today: The average cost/year for a college student, including tuition, books, supplies and daily living expenses = $35, 551 (private and public institutions). Considering student loan interest and loss of income, the ultimate cost of a bachelor’s degree = more than $500,000*.

$500,000!

So, what was very doable for me has become virtually impossible for most.

Still, the question remains, why should I pay for someone else’s education?

Well, I look it from 2 points of view. First, I don’t have school aged children or grandchildren, yet I pay school taxes — gladly — which brings me to my second point. We do these things because they are the right things to do. In order to have a great society we need to take care of one another — and that includes the opportunity for EVERYONE to receive as much education as they are suited for.

It’s also in our best interest to facilitate this because a highly educated society benefits ALL of us. And, this is not to take away from those who pursue a different vocation. They also provide valuable services for our society and should be rewarded accordingly. And, generally speaking, they ARE. But the pursuit of a career as a mechanic cannot be compared to those who pursue a career in medicine.

I know that this can leave us feeling cheated. I understand. Why should these people have advantages that no one gave us? Well, look at this way — because they are disadvantaged in ways that we could never even imagine.

And, let’s deal with the situation at the source, i.e. why has the cost of a college education increased 179.2% over the last 20 years?!**Also, we need to address the interest rates charged on these loans which can be as much as 14.99%.***

Remember, we are all in the same ocean but not necessarily in the same boat. Some have ships, others canoes. Some are simply swimming. Let’s give everyone the tools they need to handle the storm.

* https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-college

** https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-college-by-year

*** https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/loans/student-loans/student-loan-interest-rates

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