“The Rich Get Richer – & Better Educated, Too — Rising Costs Diminish Accessbility to Higher Education”

Read this article a couple weeks ago in the Malamud Room (the student lounge of sorts in Moreland Hall (English Dept)) while I was waiting for Sara to return:

The Rich Get Richer-& Better Educated, Too — Rising Costs Diminish Accessibility to Higher Education

I find myself interested in articles like this, especially because I remember, in the early and mid 1980s when I was an undergraduate, how relatively cheap tuition was. At Cal State Fullerton, I paid $500 a semester for tuition and fees, for a full load. If I did my degree in four years (which I didn’t), it would’ve cost me only $4,000. Even in 1980s dollars, that’s significantly cheaper than what students pay today. Oh, and I had gone to a community college for lower-division courses, where tuition (in California) was free, zilch, nada. So, one, I am thankful for my education (very!). If it had cost as much as it does today, I shutter to think I might not have done it (though I hope I would have figured it out one way or the other). And, two, I think a bit more about retention of students, keeping the students we do get (especially in community colleges).

Anyway, I can’t comment too much on Fenza’s take on exactly why legislators don’t support public education as much as they did right after the war, but it sure sounds accurate to me.

The confluence of social currents that formerly helped make America literate and well educated [i.e., after the GI bill of 1944] are now eroding the foundations of our social mobility, our cultural creativity, and our economic prosperity. Downturns in state economies trigger more budget cuts to higher education. Political tenets of “smaller government” coupled with the demonization of “tax-and-spend liberalism” undermine the idealism that once inspired investments in a commonwealth and its public universities. Today’s political discourse amalgamates flattery of global corporations with hissy-fits of selfishness and fear. If a leader in Congress were to propose giving free tuition and living expenses to 5% of the U.S. population today, he or she would likely be ridiculed as a dangerous proponent of “big government” and “higher taxes.” Demagogues continue to trivialize universities as decadent playgrounds of secularism— or as gulags of oppressive liberalism. Comfortable suburbanites preach the gospel of self-reliance, “of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps,” while they forget the mighty social engineering of the New Deal, the GI Bill, and the Great Society programs that had helped make their own families flourish after the Great Depression. Although many of them are the great grandchildren of poor immigrants themselves, they resent or fear immigrants and the poor. The national spirit of generosity that made public libraries and great public universities so numerous is in retreat.

What a line: “Comfortable suburbanites preach the gospel of self-reliance…”

This graph, though, shows it without a doubt. Something is going on.

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