Taking the joyful, creative youths away from aspiring to great achievements by giving them student-loan debt and making them slaves to loan holders takes away any potential for the advancement of our collective intellect. Instead of contributing to our human flourishing by generating creative, intelligent and passionate graduates, universities stamp a heavy price tag on every course taken and turn a house of learning into a mechanistic institution that effectively takes away the philosophy of the university.
I had hopes of becoming a professor of classical political thought in my years to come. But now that seems less like a possibility because school is increasingly too expensive, loans are getting heavier and professors don’t make enough money to pay off all that debt.
I’m feeling the pressure to not pursue knowledge for its own sake anymore but am feeling increasing pressure to pursue endless sleepless nights as a lawyer for the sake of paying off the debts of my wide-eyed and bushy-tailed youth.
Actually, never mind. I’m just going to do what I want. Otherwise, I’d be contributing to the cycle of graduates pursuing jobs right out of college for the mere purpose of paying off debt. Nevertheless, this is still the great misfortune of our generation. Out of principle I will pursue my passions, but I understand that most do not hold that same philosophy and have no choice but to fall victim to these practices plaguing our tertiary education system.
According to the Consumer Finance Bureau, “Student loan debt passed $1 trillion in 2013 — quadrupling since 2004 — and was the only household debt that rose during the recent recession, surpassing auto loans and credit card debt.” Credit card debt!
We all seem to hear about the monetary depression that flows from mortgages and car loans, but the tragedy of student loans far surpasses them. Moreover, 38 million Americans have student- loan debt — that’s about two-thirds of college graduates.
Furthermore, “…because of the poor job market, young people may have less of a chance than ever to actually get a good job commensurate with their education. If they don’t have the degree, then they have no chance at all,” said Matt Taibbi in his August Rolling Stone column, “Ripping off America: The College-Loan Scandal.”
High tuition and despicable loan rates are discouraging students from attending college in the first place, let alone allowing us to graduate ready for the careers of our dreams. We fall in love with so-called “unmarketable” majors, like classics or creative writing, only to find out that such lines of inquiry can’t be pursued because of the inevitable overcast of debt clouding our visions.
So students are encouraged to become uncreative, efficient slaves to the pursuit of a paycheck where our only aspiration is getting a “good job.” University education is being intentionally transformed from a participation in active learning into a means of utility for getting a decent job.
When you’re an undergraduate, the prospects of expanding your mind by pursuing the intellectual enterprise purely for its own beauty seem endless.
Suddenly, the comfort of having pursued knowledge for its own sake seems futile because, nowadays, the opportunity for scholarship and the ability to pay means the same thing.
Surprisingly enough, graduates cannot even get rid of loan-debt through bankruptcy! So when graduates’ banks are broken, loan-lenders still come collecting.
This is a correlative result of budget cuts. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Thirty-six states have cut funding by more than 20 percent, with 11 states cutting funding by more than one-third. Two states — Arizona and New Hampshire — have cut their higher education spending in half.” In fact, seven states, including Washington State by 50 percent and California by 72 percent, have increased public university tuition, according to the CBPP.
As a result of these budget cuts, students have had to rely upon themselves in order to pay for an education that will inevitably contribute to the public good anyway.
Taibbi continues, “For at least the last quarter-century, state and local funding for higher education has been dropping, and tuition has been increasing. This trend has meant that, over time, students have assumed much greater responsibility for paying for public higher education.”
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “More educated workers provide greater tax revenues, and are generally more productive, less reliant on social programs and correlated with lower crime rates.”
By opening the human imagination and allowing students to attend university at lower tuition rates, society as a whole benefits. By allowing curious students to enquire into the pursuit of understanding as its own end, the benefits serve the greater community and contribute to our human flourishing.
I understand that it’s easier said than done and that there are many factors to consider, but we’re nevertheless doing ourselves a disservice by not emphasizing the importance of education itself, not just as utility.