Thoughts on Higher Education (Part 1)

It feels stupid to reiterate this point, but I’ll say it again. Higher education is important. If you ever truly believe education ends once you graduate high school, technical school, college, graduate school, etc., you are wrong. I am an avid reader and by reading an assortment of books, mostly non-fiction, I am still learning. Reading is paramount because it helps a person by exposing them to new words (increasing vocabulary), new ideas, critical thinking and comprehension, and provides them an imagination.

Education never ends and while some forms of education are relatively free, like the public library (yes, I know my taxes help pay for it, but it is inexpensive). However, the education which provides a significant boost into a career path is not prohibitively expensive. Technical schools are a cheaper alternative and I highly encourage them because for the foreseeable future there will always been a need for electricians, plumbers, maintenance personnel, etc.

What is not cheap is the path towards a bachelor’s degree. The University of Nebraska at Kearney, where I went, is one of the cheaper public schools in the state. The current tuition cost for two 15-credit hour semesters is just under $6,000. Fees add another $1,500. Want to live on campus? Cough up another $5,000. Like food? Well that will be $4800 dollars. Total billing, around $17,000 a year, for instate and nearby Colorado and Kansas residents. Follow this entire plan for four years you will graduate and begin your career with $68,000 in debt. Yes, there are a plethora of scholarships, Pell Grants, and other financial aid offers, but even with those accounted for, you are most likely to graduate with 30-40 thousand in debt.

You can get a head start at a community college and transferring the credits over, but it doesn’t completely reduce the costs. The problem is, education has become expensive and the current system of paying for higher education is failing the nation (and by extension the world).

America is falling behind in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These four broad fields are not the sole reason to go college, there will always be a need for future educators, political scientists, agriculture, etc. Why exactly we are falling behind is not easy to answer, and one which would require a lot to time to research, write up, then make present it in a comprehensible to the general public, (I do apologize if I’m sounding elitist, I’m trying to get a point across). Today people want an easy answer, a talking point. An issue as big as higher education cannot be broken down into ten-second soundbite. Addressing the issue requires a study, solutions, and the critical thinking skills offered by college (especially English courses and from reading in general) to understand the issue.

At a future time, I may write more about higher education, but I’m focused on the costs right now. The cost of higher education is hurting the nation (and again by extension…the world). I strongly believe every citizen deserves a shot to earn up to a bachelor’s degree, tuition and fees, covered by the government – housing and meals are a different ballgame.

Why is the lack of affordable higher education failing this nation? I believe because without an educated electorate, we get elected officials who have no concept of reality and the world around them. We get elected officials who embrace scare tactics rather than honesty. We get elected officials who appeal to the lowest common denominator and our worse, primal instincts instead of debating the issues which affect us. We get elected officials who instead of caring about all people, only care about themselves and the people who got them elected. Higher education can help people understand why fascism and authoritarianism is bad. It can help people understand that anecdotal evidence (ie. it is snowing outside so global warming/climate change is a myth) is not the way the world really works.

Why is the lack of affordable higher education in America failing the world? Looking outside of the United States, we are a small portion of the world’s population, only about 325 million of the 7.5 billion people. However, the nation is one of the top producers of carbon dioxide, methane, and other toxic chemicals which are spewed into the air and water. A college education with critical thinking (and imagination helped by reading) can help people understand our current ways cannot be sustained. All other nations in the world can move toward a goal but it will no matter if the United States does not partake in the action. By electing foxes to run the henhouse, we have hurt ourselves.

It is my hope if we change the affordability of college education, we can prevent foxes (complete idiots) from getting elected, or at least reduce their number to a point that they have no say on what legislation is proposed and how it is enacted.

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