Tackling the cost of higher education

As the presidential race begins its partisan pony show, candidates are dangling carrots of education reform and tuition reduction to attract the fickle attention of the nation’s youngest voters.

However, most candidates do not offer enough. The modern student should not have to struggle simply for the privilege to serve a corporation. Coupled with shrinking incomes and job prospects, today’s student—and often family—has to bear more economic difficulties than yesterday’s.

Many of the candidates have struck a conceptually similar tone in which higher education is an investment for the prosperity of the nation.

Washington State has made history by passing Senate Bill 5954, setting in motion a 15-20 percent tuition decrease at public four year schools and a 5 percent decrease at community colleges by 2016, but this does little to satisfy the average student when statewide tuition has doubled in the last decade.

Thanks to the Democratic Party’s decision to limit all partisan debates to six, as opposed to 26 in 2008, current stances on these pivotal issues are based on vague collections of past actions.

Education reform and student debt were given no more attention during the republican presidential debate last August than Senator Marco Rubio’s gloating over the amount of debt he had shouldered, later adding the uselessly amorphous, “We need to improve higher education so that people can have access to the skills they need for twenty-first-century jobs.”

While the reduction of debates into clubfooted dances of soundbites can be blamed on the modern marriage of public relations—a benign name for propaganda—and politics, every major and mid-level presidential nominee has taken a stance on education reform.

The means and methods of these stances may be as numerous as the candidates themselves, but they tend to fall into the same schools of thought.

Some republicans, such as Carly Fiorina, think that government should be removed completely from the current system, giving the reins to the free market. As anyone who has ever suffered Comcast well knows, the free market will always sacrifice well-being for profit.

Fiorina shows some sensibility in noting that the difference between increases in inflation rates and tuition rates, or credit card interest rates and student loan interest rates, constitutes a racket run by federal thugs.

There is, of course, the perennial republican talking point about bootstraps, and how one should not feel too entitled to lift oneself up with them.

Ben Carson and Bobby Jindal both pipe rhetoric of the unaffordability of education reform, focusing largely on their priorities of turning the Middle East into a molten wasteland one $10,000 bomb at a time.

A similar school of thought champions a system where private and corporate investors pay a certain portion of a student’s tuition in exchange for a certain percentage of the student’s future wages.

This policy of gift wrapped indentured servitude merely skips straight to the part where private entities garnish a student’s wages. This indecency, supported by the likes of Count Harkonnen look-alike Chris Christie, is unsurprising in an age where college education is so typically a job funnel into the same corporations garnishing wages through existing loaning schemes.

The democrats are rolling out almost ubiquitously promising federal intervention in significantly lowering the cost of higher education.

Bernie Sanders, ultimately in favor of a free public education, outlined a plan at the University of Iowa in February to reduce President Obama’s scheduled increases in the Department of Defense’s budget from $38 billion to $20 billion, channeling that money instead to reduce tuition nationwide by 55 percent.

Books instead of bombs, he says. What a loon.

Hillary has stated similarly noble goals, but given her history as a devout war hawk, she cannot be expected to sacrifice defense spending for domestic aid. Whichever candidate fights hardest to assure students that education will be treated as a public good will have made strides in securing the support of younger voters. With another month before the first democratic presidential debate and many political debacles left to come, the nominees have plenty of time to solidify—or snake between—their stances.

In the meanwhile, the students of America are watching, hungry.

Emry Dinman is a junior communication major from Seattle. He can be contacted at 335-2290 or by [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of the Office of Student Media.