Column: Going to college shouldn’t be a debt sentence

Education should be available to all, not just those who can afford it.

Tuition could be on the rise as the higher education budget is making up less of the overall state budget of Missouri and many other states all around the U.S.

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Jim Spain and MU junior Gunnar Johanson have done research to track how tuition at MU is changing and increasing almost every year, as reported in last week’s issue of The Maneater, and it is imperative that we take these reports seriously if we don’t want tuition to continuously surge.

The state is not supporting universities like it once did. This is pretty backwards now that tuition is at the highest it has ever been and more people are choosing to attend college than ever before. But even as more people are going to college — enrollment in degree-granting institutions increased by 32 percent from 2001 to 2011 — it is still out of reach for some, especially when it is far away from home and requires out-of-state tuitions. Eventually people will be forced to attend schools that offer more financial options for them. Those are usually the ones closest to their home.

Choosing to stay home and go to college might become a national norm for America. Students might just stop applying and enrolling in four-year institutions because of costs. Higher prices for school seem ridiculous considering some countries, such as Finland and France, provide free college tuition to students.

The amount of debt we already have as a nation due to education loans is becoming a prominent issue for our country. Student loan debt makes up the largest proportion of American debt today, coming in at over $1 trillion, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

That should be seen as a problem to students as well as government officials. Our economy will suffer more than it already has if loans are continuously taken out but not paid back. Paying loans back is not easy when the economy is in a bad state and people can’t find jobs.

Going to college should not be a “debt sentence” for students who don’t get enough scholarships to cover yearly costs, don’t have parents or don’t have other resources to help pay for tuition. College enrollment has declined over the past two years, and we have high tuition rates to blame for that. We need to do something to protect the most valuable thing a person could have: an education.

MU is the largest public research university in the state, so naturally it comes with a price tag. But at some point, there needs to be a cap or limit on how much of the burden students are required to take on if they want to pursue higher education. Many people are already drowning in debt by the time they graduate, and that is not acceptable.

It seems that the state government doesn’t think students care enough to get involved with the laws and policies that go into funding for college tuition, and that has to stop. Students need to use their voices and demand some answers. We deserve to know just how much of the state budget is used for our education. We should be at the forefront of representatives’ minds as they make decisions for us.

Education is the most useful and important thing a person can have, and it’s time we start acting like it. As one of the biggest, most powerful universities in the state, I think MU should take our vice provost’s and our fellow student’s advice and demand help from the state. We will not get anywhere if we continue to sweep our problems under the rug. Change can be made if us students, the people who are being affected the most, stand up and join in on the discussion of higher education costs. It’s time we let the people who represent us know that we want a solution to this problem.

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