Why didn’t this occur to me as an undergrad?
I was quite surprised when I read this article about college students in Seattle resorting to food banks. Thinking about it, though, it makes sense considering the current economic conditions.
But I think that a larger issue is at hand, and that is the affordability of a college education in this country. For those who don’t have to face the challenge of financing their education, it’s very easy to assume that there are means to cover such expenses.
Sure, there are means, but they aren’t always easy to obtain. Personally, I had to support myself since I was 16, and that included financing my college education. It wasn’t easy, mainly because tuition costs is only part of the problem. To cut expenses, I attended community college first and then transferred to UCI to complete my degree. I worked A LOT but still graduated with a hefty credit card debt and a serious bill to Uncle Sam.
Everyday expenses really add up – especially food (which explained my credit card debt). It never occured to me to actually visit a food bank, and if it did, I can’t say I would have actually gone as I am sure there were (are!) others far worse off and more deserving.
However, I certainly wouldn’t have passed up more financial aid that didn’t have strings attached, or for that matter, less hassle at the financial aid office (this includes all three colleges I attended). (Filling out those forms and getting everything in order is akin to filing taxes in my book.) But why even bother with financial aid?
Why should students have to pay for tuition at all? How much easier would it be to make it through college if you already know your tuition is covered, especially if you’re flying solo? (For those that don’t already know, California Community Colleges actually offer a fee waiver for those that qualify, which helps tremendously.)
These days, it doesn’t seem as if a high school education will get you very far. In fact, the baccalaureate appears to be the minimum requirement to get your foot in the door at most companies – an advanced degrees is becoming more and more of a necessity. My opinion is that it would only behoove us as a society to educate our population – via outside funding sponsored by the government, companies, private foundations, etc. – beyond the “minimal” requirement of a high school diploma. In essence, college tuition should be covered for students who qualify, period.
Of course, this begs the question of what to do to prepare said students for the rigorous (yet basic) math and science courses required to earn a baccalaureate degree, as it is becoming painfully obvious that our public schools aren’t up to the task.
But that’s for another blog.