The Rising Cost of College
I believe we need to face head-on. There is a marked difference in opportunity between different socioeconomic groups at the school. There is a vast inequality between the have and have-nots on this island. We need to further narrow educational inequalities by understanding that these inequalities exist. It is a well-known fact that children from affluent families tend to do better in school. Yet the income divide has received far less attention from policy makers and government officials than gaps in student accomplishment by race. My dream for Bainbridge Island is success for every child, based on nothing but the content of their mind and heart, not their bank accounts.
Doing well in high school isn't enough to get to the next level, college. Affirmative action is all but dead in United States universities. Lost in the debate of affirmative action is a simple fact, income not race, is a real determining factor in higher education today. Millions of kids are not attending college. Not because they are unqualified, but because they simply cannot afford it. Families that earn in the top 25% of income in the United States send 80% of their children to college. Of the bottom 25% of income earners in the US less than 10% of the children go to college. Family income is the new predictor of a childs future achievement. Education should be the great equalizer in American society. Education can lift less advantaged children and improve their chances for lifetime success as adults. The achievement gap between rich and poor is the new racism in the United States
Why are children from privileged backgrounds more successful in school? Why do these advantages persist over time? These are complex moral dilemmas. Over time, cultural and social differences combine to preserve privilege across many generations. Unequal school financing across school districts is also unfair.
My father drives a 13-year-old Chevy Suburban. He does not do this ironically, like some suave hipster. He drives a car with 200,000+ miles on it because my family of four makes $55,000 a year. My family moved here specifically for the educational opportunities that Bainbridge Island high school could provide. My family, like so many others, isn't poor enough to receive government help and isn't wealthy enough to afford to live here. We don't have smart phones, we share a computer, Wi-Fi is one of our largest expenses, we do not travel and we eat more than our share of top Ramen in my house. I fight so hard for every A because I need the merit money for college.
There are major advantages for students from families with more economic resources. Wealthy parents can invest more time and money in weekend sports, ballet, music lessons, math tutors and weekend SAT prep classes. As kids get older parents try to position their children for the best colleges, which is even more essential for success in today's economy.
What can we do here on Bainbridge Island? I believe Wi-Fi should be free all across Bainbridge Island. Every child should be handed a take home computer in seventh grade. Offer free tutoring in math and English at every level. Hire twice as many student advisors at the high school. The United States, as a whole, needs to find a way to make college more affordable for everybody.
"...The richest nation on Earth has never allocated enough resources to build sufficient schools, to compensate adequately its teachers, and to surround them with the prestige our work justifies. We squander funds on highways, on the frenetic pursuit of recreation, on the overabundance of overkill armament, but we pauperize education." From a speech given by Martin Luther King on March 14, 1964, when he accepted the John Dewey Award from the United Federation of Teachers.
far outpacing the price inflation of consumer goods, medical expenses and food.
According to Bloomberg, college tuition and fees have increased 1,120 percent since records began in 1978.
“Soaring tuition and shrinking incomes are making college less and less affordable,” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, told Bloomberg. “For millions of young people, rising college costs are putting the American dream on hold, or out of reach.”
Indeed, as tuition costs continue to rise and the national student loan debt hits $1 trillion, some people have been left wondering if college is even worth it anymore.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Associated Press in June that lowering college costs needs to be priority for the whole country.
"As a nation, we need more college graduates in order to stay competitive in the global economy," Duncan said. "But if the costs keep on rising, especially at a time when family incomes are hurting, college will become increasingly unaffordable for the middle class."
In Apr. 2013 the unemployment rate for college graduates over 25 years old was 3.6% compared to 7.5% for high school graduates. The median income for families headed by a bachelor's degree holder was $100,096 in 2011—more than double than that for a family headed by a high school graduate. [
85% of Forbes' 2012 America's 400 Richest People list were college grads. Based on economy and job projections calculated by Georgetown University, in 2018, approximately 63% of jobs will require some college education or a degree.
People who do not go to college are more likely to be unemployed and, therefore, place undue financial strain on society, making a college degree worth it to taxpayers. Young people "not engaged in employment/education or training," AKA NEET, are more likely to receive welfare than youth in general, they are more likely to commit crimes, and they are more likely to receive public health care, all costing the government extra money. In total, each NEET youth between the ages of 16 and 25 impose a $51,350 financial burden on society per year, and after the person is 25 he or she will impose a financial burden of $699,770.  The total cost of 6.7% of the US population being NEET youth is $4.75 trillion, which is comparable to half of the US public debt.  Student debt could cause another financial crisis. As of 2012 student loan debt was over $1 trillion dollars, and more than 850,000 student loans were in default.  According to the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, student loans are "beginning to have the same effect" on the economy that the housing bubble and crash created.  Former Secretary of Education William Bennett, PhD, agrees that the student loan debt crisis "is a vicious cycle of bad lending policies eerily similar to the causes of the subprime mortgage crisis."  On Feb. 3, 2012, an advisory council to the Federal Reserve also warned that the growth in student debt "has parallels to the housing crisis."  As of Jan. 2013, the rate of default on student loans hit 15.1%--a nearly 22% increase since 2007.  Student loan debt is crippling for college graduates. Between 2003 and 2012 the number of 25-year-olds with student debt increased from 25% to 43%, and their average loan balance was $20,326 in 2012--a 91% increase since 2003.  10% of students graduate with over $40,000 in debt and about 1% have $100,000 in debt. The average student borrower graduated in 2011 with $26,600 in debt.  According to the US Congress Joint Economic Committee, approximately 60% of 2011 college graduates have student loan debt balances equal to 60% of their annual income.  Missing or being late for loan payments often results in a lower credit score and additional fees, thus escalating the debt problem and potentially jeopardizing future purchases and employment. 
ProCon.org. "Is a College Education Worth It?" ProCon.org. 13 Jan. 2015. Web. 10 May. 2015.
Like health care, prices are rising rapidly for higher education because of the predominant role of third-party payments -- federal student loans and grants, state government support for institutions and students, private philanthropic gifts and endowment income. College seniors who borrow to finance their education now graduate with an average of $24,000 in debt, and student loan debt now tops credit card debt among Americans. When some else is paying a lot of the bills, students are less sensitive to the price, thus allowing the colleges to care less about keeping prices under control. And the nonprofit nature of institutions reduces incentives for colleges and universities to be efficient.