It seems to me…
“History is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” ~ H.G. Wells (1920).
Republican ideology has apparently determined that anything “public” is inferior to anything “private”. Political purity dictates that anything private supposedly is more efficient, more responsive, and less prone to corruption; anything public is presumed to be wasteful, sclerotic, and execrable – and they do not allow for any exceptions. Much of our military now is dependent upon civilian contractors.
Even public education seems to be subject to their narrow ideological perspective[i]. Educational funding across the country has repeatedly been slashed in their efforts to balance budgets with funding to higher education bearing the primary brunt of their attack.
Having attended a private college as an undergraduate, I felt it provided an excellent education within a small college environment perfect for my personality[ii]. Since then, I have attended, worked, and taught at a number of both public and private colleges and found all of them to be totally oriented to providing the quality education students expect and deserve.
In direct contradiction to conservative ideology, public colleges on average are less expensive than private ones; for-profit colleges cost more than public colleges and universities. Community colleges, long the underfunded stepchildren of higher education, repeatedly prove that a sense of social good and public mission can go a long way towards compensating for a severe lack of money. To conservative thinking, that is not supposed to be possible.
These attacks on higher education are harmful to our nation. Nothing is more important to the future of our country and the world than the breadth and effectiveness of education. To be economically competitive the U.S. must double the number of degrees attained by our population with no compromise on quality.
In the past half century the GI Bill, the post-Sputnik National Defense in Education Act, and the Higher Education Act of 1965, helped make the U.S. workforce the most competitive in the world. Mixing a well-educated workforce with investment in R&D in an open, competitive economy governed by fair laws, turned out to be a powerful “recipe” for social and economic prosperity.
It is estimated that at least 250,000 prospective students are shut out of higher education every year due to rising tuition or cutbacks in admissions and course offerings. Since 1999, average student loan debt has increased by about 511 percent. In 2010, total outstanding student loan debt exceeded total outstanding credit card debt in America for the first time. In 2012, total outstanding student loan debt is expected to exceed $1 trillion. Mid-year restrictions on enrollment and transfer in some states could increase this number. In addition, many more students are accumulating substantially larger debt as a way to pay for the unpredictable and steep hikes in tuition.
Disproportionately large cuts in state higher education appropriations were the principal cause of the steep tuition increases and the rolling back of higher education opportunity. Higher education has been the place to cut when money is needed for K-12, healthcare, human services, and corrections. Reducing college opportunity is a short-term reaction that is counter to the nation’s long-term need for greater numbers of highly educated citizens.
States (directly or indirectly) and public colleges and universities replaced most lost state revenues by increasing tuition. The consequence was that the major burden of reductions in state higher education budgets was borne by students and families in the forms of reduced college opportunity, steep tuition increases, and, as previously stated, increased debt. State funding for higher education has not kept pace with growing student enrollments, resulting in significantly less funding per student and leaving students and families to pay a greater share of college costs while accumulating record high debt levels.
Space needs to be provided for every eligible student meeting minimal requirements to enroll in higher education while alternative vocational educational opportunities should be available to those students not seeking a college degree. Enrollment at public institutions should be state supported without charge to any student meeting academic standards for as long as they wish to attend.
We also need to provide some basic stipend to encourage students to major in critical fields such as science or engineering. Regardless of what field someone majors in, all debt should be eliminated in return for some form of service; e.g., military: 1 year, Peace Corp: 2 years, AmeriCorps: 3 years, teaching K-12: 4 years, employment in degree field: 5 years…
That’s what I think, what about you?