President Obama dropped his proposed budget cuts on the table. A month ago the Commander-in-Chief declared education on a par with the launch of Sputnik but if the details of the interest rates on loans that accumulate from the first day a graduate student walks into a classroom are any indication then he has sent the price tag for students soaring to astronomical levels.
It's hard to fathom how being burdened by more debt will make higher education more attractive. According to FinAid.org, graduate students are already saddled with debt ranging from $30,000 on the low end to upwards of $120,000 by the time they walk off campus. In a viciously anemic job market for young, over-educated adults, the incentive to head back to graduate school meant a few years reprieve from standing in a line of jobless Americans. Certainly, it was already an expensive umbrella to get out of the storm but with these cuts it now seems downright oppressive. Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew said Monday, in all his wisdom that, "Interest will build up, but students won't have to pay until they graduate. So it will increase the burden for paying back the loans, but it will not reduce access to education."
Let's rewind that for a moment: he said that a kid already repaying student loans for four years of college and facing diminished job opportunities WILL NOT be deterred from a more expensive graduate school program. Now, I'm not very good at math (terrible in fact) but even I can see that you would have to jump out of grad school into a hedge fund to make this work and if you're under 30 and living in a city then you pretty much know that too. If you can't afford it, then you can't go and that's a pretty big deterrent.
Budget cuts need to occur, but do they also need to cut the objectives of higher education this drastically? Undoubtedly, education must be a priority in the United States where students and parents have to take more personal responsibility for their efforts. I'm not talking Amy Chua-style mothers here, but maybe we do a little more work in between Facebook chats, and stop blaming teachers. But here is the dilemma, because what young person wants to be in debt until he's 50 (and what parent wants their son or daughter to enter the work force with a debt millstone around their neck)? I'm all for going home for the holidays but count me out of setting up play-dates with my other balding forty-year old friends because we still sleep in the same rooms we did as ten-year olds due to the burden of increased loans.
President Obama admitted at the podium in January that, "Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education," and that means money. Anyone who has been to a job interview in the last eighteen months knows there's at least one person in the waiting room with a Master's degree, so how do you compete when you aren't -- financially -- allowed the opportunity? Today, too often, the issue of graduate school isn't how high your GPA was, it's how low your bank account is.
College is expensive. And it will get more expensive. That's probably something that won't change unless there's a communist take over. Loans are a heavy cross to bear for young adults and are certainly a detriment to the quality of life for many. That's just the way things are now. But a system that accumulates interest from the first day of class is like having to pay a car dealership for merely thinking about a lease.
We got to the moon because we spent a ton of money to do it. Currently, the problem with the proposed budget cuts is that families are going to have to spend a ton of money in a time of belt tightening if they want their children to shoot for the stars. It might save the government some cash but frankly, it's unfair to students and parents. The President is committed to bettering educational standards and I applaud him for that. This budget cut plan isn't one that will help raise those standards though. He asked if we were "willing to do what's necessary to give every child a chance to succeed." Well, it seems what is necessary is also what is too expensive and may just be one of the main reasons kids and parents won't want to take that chance or spend for that kind of opportunity.
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