I am a middle-class white male living in the United States of America. I have two parents, both of whom are also white and middle class. Guess how much of my college is paid for by the state — none.
Of course I realize the very reason for my financial aid woes is because my parents can afford to pay for my college. As such, I have no right to complain, which is not what I am doing here.
Most of us have been taught that access to an affordable education is one of the lofty ideals that underpins the “American dream.”
These days, many students are forced to rely on financial aid and massive loans just to get through four years of college (if they are lucky). This is the case because our education system has reached its carrying capacity.
For those of you who have not taken a biology class in a while, carrying capacity refers to an environment’s maximum number of species that it can hold without collapsing due to overpopulation.
If we agree this is the case, then there are two options we are presented with. We either decrease the amount of organisms (students) or we increase the carrying capacity of the environment (your friendly neighborhood university).
In this column, I will attempt to address the first course of action, reducing the amount of students. Next week, I will tackle the more complex issue of raising our carrying capacity.
If you break it down into an oversimplified numbers game, more students may mean more tuition dollars, but it also means more up-front cost. I like to think of a university as a person who is employed in the business of teaching students. Tuition is their paycheck, and what they pay to teach students is their living expenses.
Anyone can tell you that wages always lag behind living expenses. Just ask your professors.
I still believe access to an affordable education is a goal worth achieving in this country. I do not, however, believe that everyone should use that access just because they can or because it is expected of them.
I know plenty of people who went to college simply because they wanted to make their parents proud. While it makes for a good Hallmark card, this is a horrible reason to spend thousands of dollars on a degree in underwater basket weaving.
Another thing I have noticed, and I am sure you can relate to, is not everyone is cut out for college. Imagine the money that could be saved by not having to build a new dorm for the droves of freshmen, who a good percentage of will drop out before midterms, taking away the tuition money expected to come in with them for the next four years.
Ironically, I believe education is the key. Sit every prospective student and their parents down before high school graduation and give them a cost-benefit analysis of their many options out of high school.
Also, educate them better while they are in high school, so that if they do choose to go to a college they will be prepared, and will not flunk out or drunk out. And, give them an entrance exam is tougher than the SAT.
Unfortunately, these steps will never be taken, nor are they the end-all-be-all of solutions. The job of those in charge of our university’s finances is to come up with something better.