As I sat in the back of the room in one of my classes and listened to a fellow student drone on about how her family's summer trip to the Ozarks somehow related to media theory, I let out a sigh. As she stumbled on her point about listening to Glenn Beck on the radio while driving through Oklahoma, I pulled out my calculator and began doing a little math. Lets see, the cost for Fall tuition for my major was $4,646. Divide that by the four classes I'm taking, then divide that by the 27 class meetings in a semester. The number I came up with was $43.01. That was the amount of money I spent to attend that particular class session. Even more troubling, after prorating that number I realized that I was paying about $5 to listen to the girl conclude that Glenn Beck was biased. My only solace was that I qualified for in-state tuition.
The cost of higher education in this country has extended from unaffordable to freaking outrageous in recent years, but sitting in the back of that outdated classroom, I wondered if perhaps there was a solution. No, not necessarily dropping out -- although if I have to listen to another example comparing a contemporary figure to either Hitler or Gandhi, I may consider it -- but rather through political action.
Although according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, political participation has waned amongst college students, I still believe that there is one political party that perhaps all students can stand behind: The Tuition is Too Damn High Party.
A friend of mine brought the movement to my attention last week and to my delight it has already gotten some traction on Facebook. The party is inspired by Jimmy McMillan, the man who founded "The Rent Is Too Damn High" party, and ran for governor of New York this year with the hopes of making the rent a little damn lower. Although McMillan only managed to garner roughly 40,000 votes, he was hardly a failure. Through his remarkable message, surpassed by his remarkable facial hair, McMillan managed to bring awareness to his cause. With tuition costs rising out of control, college students must become more vocal about the mountains of debt they are facing in order to force their representatives to take notice.
To create a unified voice, perhaps college students could put it on themselves to continue where McMillan left off. While producing a gubernatorial candidate may not be tangible, running a student government candidate harboring the message of the Tuition is Too Damn High party at every university across the country certainly is. Beyond that, now that the second season of Jersey Shore has concluded, there are hardly any excuses left for students not to become more politically engaged. Perhaps my peers will now have the time to get organized and begin sending letters out to their representatives containing the simple message that they think the tuition is too damn high... and they will only vote in two years for someone who plans to make it lower.
Realistically, while my generation is often not overwhelmingly invigorated by movements promoting straight-forward issues, the 150,000 people that drove all the way to Washington, D.C. to watch John Stewart promote sanity proved that we are willing to mobilize for the sake of satire with a purpose. Hence, the idea behind the Tuition Is Too Damn High party may not be as stupid as it sounds.
Since 1999, the cost of tuition at the University of Texas at Austin has increased 134 percent. This trend is not unique to my school, however -- just about every university in the country has undergone massive tuition increases during that same time period.
As President Obama has said, "Higher education is the economic issue of our time." As such, politicians across the country must make funding our education system a priority. Doing so is not so much an expense as it is a solid investment. An uneducated populace will simply not be able to compete in the global economy moving forward. While Obama has taken positive steps to assist indebted students by advocating for more Pell Grants, this measure will only put a band-aid on what is a gaping wound.
When considering the future of higher education in this country in upcoming state legislative sessions, elected officials must weigh sense, rather than cents. Although it appears that another shift is occurring in the political landscape, this is an issue that should supersede partisan fodder. In a country that aims to promote liberty for it's people, higher education, if desired, should lean more towards being a right rather than a privilege.
In order to ensure that this is so, students of all political persuasions must band together in an effort to deliver an important, unified message to politicians as well as college administrators: The tuition is just too damn high, dammit!