Is Getting a College Education a Right or a Privilege?

College is becoming more expensive for students

By Audrey Garces

In recent years, the question of college education being a right or a privilege has risen to the surface as one of America’s predominant hot button issues.

California’s UC school system has pushed their tuition hikes back to 2018 after student protests shut down classes, meanwhile President Obama has faced backlash from members of both party lines after proposing an initiative for two free years of community college for students, called America’s College Promise.

As a student, the repercussions of the rising cost to attend college can be seen through numerous friends who fear facing crippling debt post graduation, or who can not rake up enough money to attend the college of their dreams, even though they received the acceptance letter.

While many continue to ask if a college education is a right or a privilege, it remains unbeknownst to them that this is a question that has already been answered for American students.

As of right now, the cost of obtaining a postsecondary education causes college to be a privilege

in this country, but should indefinitely and morally be granted as a right.

The question remains: should getting a college education be a right or a privilege?

By investigating the clear facts of average tuition costs as well as the proliferating student debt crisis, the logical response is that a country should invest in its students’ education as an investment in the future of their workforce and society as a whole.

“The statistics show the negative relationship between rising tuition costs and a stagnant federal minimum wage.”

Thirty-six years ago, a student would need to work 182 hours at minimum wage to pay off a year’s worth of in-state tuition at a four- year university. In 2013, a student would need to work 991 hours at minimum wage in order to do the same, according to the National

Center for Education Statistics. These statistics show the negative relationship between rising tuition costs and a stagnant federal minimum wage.

The National Center for Education Statistics also found that the average cost to attend a four- year college in 2013-2014 totaled $29,408 per year.

Unless a student is fortunate enough that their family can pay out of pocket, they will inevitably face enormous debt and added financial stress to their life, when they should be able to solely focus on their education rather than worrying about how they will pay it off.

A student simply working their way through college is now unheard of, as tuition has gotten 12 times more expensive in just this last generation.

Students who want a postsecondary education but cannot afford to pay for one are highly disadvantaged and are forced to consider less expensive options, such as community college or entering the workforce straight out of high school.

As a country, we must ask ourselves if we feel the financial pressure that is put on our students is morally acceptable.

Rather than simply examining the current state of college education being a privilege on an

economic basis, Americans should morally consider the direct opposition this system operates against the idea of the “American Dream.”

The fact of the matter is, there are students who work hard in high school, achieve good grades and test scores, yet can not afford to attend a four-year university.

PennAHEAD and the Pell Institute found that students from rich families (who make $108,650 or more per year) are eight times more likely to graduate college than a student from a poor family (who makes less than $34,160 per year).

Those who believe education should remain a privilege argue that students from less financially fortunate families can take out loans or choose a less expensive postsecondary school.

But is it fair that a student from a poor family be given less of an opportunity than someone else with the same GPA and test scores whom happens to be born into a wealthier family?

The negative consequences of the price of postsecondary education will assuredly affect the future of our workforce, government, technological advances and increasing incarceration rates by not allowing the same educational opportunities to anyone who is willing to apply themselves in school, no matter

what their financial status is. Luckily, recent news headlines shine a glimmer of hope upon the path of college education becoming a right to students in America. President Obama’s proposed initiative America’s College Promise would make obtaining two years of college free and universal to students, as long as they maintain a 2.5 GPA. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been pitching his College For All solution at rallies, which would use a small tax applied to Wall Street transactions to allow four-year public universities to be free for students.

Sanders has surged in popularity, especially among students, and is gaining on, or in several cases, outright ahead of Democratic front- runner Hillary Clinton in national polls.

Students and families alike have spoken out: college education in America is treated as a privilege, but should be considered a right. A hardworking and eager student should not be setback or discouraged because of their family’s financial status, and politicians and our educational system need to work together in order to fix this issue for the sake of America’s future.

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Send an email to: Audrey Garces