How Are We Going To Pay For College?

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How Are We Going To Pay For College?

Samuel Adams, essayist

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Imagine for a moment that you are an aspiring college student, ready to move on to the next stage of your education, and by extension, your life and eventual career prospects; many of you reading this article probably already do a fair bit of this.

Exciting, right? You can’t wait to tour as many campuses as you can, apply to several schools, and pursue your intended major without a care in the world.

Except, of course, that you may also be considering a major such as art history and attending a highly prestigious university like Notre Dame. (To those who want to pursue art history as a degree, I don’t mean any offense…)

But where’s the problem, still? Surely we can’t just dog on people for wanting to go to school for something they love, right? Isn’t that what America’s all about, the freedom to choose and all that?

Unfortunately, as grand as it sounds to learn about Picasso’s many different creative eras, or to study the original works of Van Gogh, there’s just one problem — art history is a very niche field, and Notre Dame is a VERY expensive university.

Van Gogh himself made very little money off of his work, and neither did Edgar Allen Poe — notice how we herald both of these individuals as great artists, and yet they both died penniless?

I’m not attacking this major, specifically, nor the passion for art; I think it’s great that there are people who want to uphold the arts.

I myself have been an aspiring musician for about four years now, and yet I can’t even fathom going to college for a major in music, especially not to Marquette, where the benefits of pursuing music is far outweighed by the sheer cost of attendance.

My goal is to graduate from high school, move on to college, get a four-year degree in an area I enjoy working, and subsequently work to pay off the debt that I will no doubt incur from going to school, especially one such as Marquette. It’s no secret, I’m afraid — nearly every single one of you will incur some sort of student loan debt, and therefore will deal with it for much longer than your 4-8 years in college.

$16,000 a year will add up, and the interest will keep your debt in constant development. If you go to school as a doctor — say, as a neurologist — and you manage to keep the same level of funds owed in graduate school (which almost never happens), you’re still looking at graduating with six figures in debt — and that’s considered a good amount to graduate with from Marquette.

Your neurologist job might pay a higher wage than your total debt owed in all reality, but you didn’t become a neurologist just to pay off a massive debt.

You’ve also got a mortgage to pay, at least one car to pay for, taxes to pay, general living expenses — the list goes on. You can read this at any point in your life and think of something else that’s unique to your age group, like a 401(k) or a similar retirement fund.

Suffice it to say,  you’re not going to pay this off within months of graduating. Other things are more important, don’t you think? Unfortunately, our debtors don’t seem to think so.

The point is, no matter what field you pursue — whether it’s to be a quiet little art curator or the best surgeon in the Western hemisphere — you probably have to go to college for this career, and college simply costs too much to attend for people of our age.

We need to get the ball rolling on this, in any way we can. Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, whatever shade of the political spectrum you fall on; this affects you.

This will affect any children you might have, if they also hope to go to college. A fair few of our children, unsurprisingly, will want to go to college and meet the roadblock of mounting debt, much like ourselves, as the problem will no doubt have exponentially grown if nothing is done about it.

We need to return to a culture of education — we know that the ultimate goal of education is to adjust an individual well enough that they can discern what they want to do, and give them the means to do it well, but something’s gone wrong somewhere in between the discernment and the means of doing.

Where are we to find the funds for this, though? My first suggestion would be the military, but there are too many people so highly invested in America’s status as the most powerful country on Earth that we couldn’t possibly pull away even a few (relative) dollars from what is otherwise a huge budget, fueling a military larger than the next seven countries combined.

Another glaring oversight is healthcare; the mess that American healthcare is can be another editorial and a half on its own, but it just seems like we’re wasting funds here and there for a system that hardly works when we most need it.

We need to be more efficient. There’s no beating around the bush with this.

Do you have prospects of putting money down on a house by 23 and diversifying your portfolio by 30? Forget it; unless something changes, it’s nigh impossible.

Get in contact with your lawmakers. Make friends with your local legislators. Make your voice heard — vote for candidates whose policies promise an end to the nightmare that the new generation faces.

If it can’t be done in time for our sake, then at least save our children from having to go through the same ordeal. Anything in the right direction is better than what we’ve got right now!