Tuition too high to stomach

The streets of London swarmed with some 52,000 demonstrators in Nov. 2010 when the British Parliament proposed a stark university tuition increase for its students. The protests continued into late 2011 and sometimes became violent.

Hundreds were arrested. Dozens were injured.

More recently, proposed tuition hikes in Quebec and Montreal led students to riot in opposition. An estimated 31,000 are now boycotting their classes at the University of Montreal.

Meanwhile, students of Arizona State University have seen a 95 percent increase in tuition since the 2007-2008 school year. The average tuition for residents taking over 7 units in 2007 was $2,486. In Spring 2012, that number was $4860.  The most recent and larger increases came in 2011, when the Arizona Board of Regents approved statewide university requests for tuition hikes, following Gov. Jan Brewer’s budget approval of a 20 percent cut to university funding. ASU students received a 20 percent tuition hike that year – and what did we do?

Absolutely nothing.

How many tuition hikes and threats of doubled subsidized loan interest rates will we take before we question the structure of the U.S. university system? How deep must we fall into our economic woes and prospects of a bleak graduate job market before we say enough is enough?

While university tuition continues to rise, financial aid for low-income students stagnates, making it all the more difficult to achieve the “American dream” we’ve been told is achievable through hard work and determination.

We are partially to blame here. We are told to pay more, so we do. We are advised to forever enslave ourselves to massive student loan debt in the hopes that, following the day we graduate, we are able to either rise above, or maintain our social classes. We sign our lives away because education debt is “good debt,” right? That’s what we’re told, isn’t it?

Maybe you believe education shouldn’t be free — that’s fine — but education shouldn’t be so expensive that it becomes exclusive to the wealthy. That’s class warfare. If we are all working hard to give ourselves the chance at a better life, we should all have the same opportunities to pursue our dreams. The more expensive education becomes, the more great minds we exclude from making our world a better, more progressive place to live.

We must take heed from student activists around the world.

Our apathy regarding unfair tuition increases will take us nowhere. Our apathy will morph into the form of a student loan bubble that we will later pay for tenfold. If enough of us were to stand up and actively oppose tuition hikes from our universities, maybe, just maybe, lawmakers would listen to us.

The power of demonstration is strong. We have seen it before in the civil rights movement, the labor movement and the women’s suffrage movement.

While we watch our parents struggle to maintain their jobs, their mortgages and self-dignity, we’ve been further forced into a looming generational financial crisis we had no part in creating.

We should be angry. I am angry. We must direct that anger into a collective, nonpartisan movement that calls for national education reform.

I’m game if you are.

 

Reach the columnist at kharli.mandeville@asu.edu or at @kaharli

 


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