Follow Obama’s lead with college tuition

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Not to sound old, but I remember when college cost less than $30,000 a year.

On Monday, a Marquette University News Brief alerted students that next year’s tuition would rise once again — to $32,810, with room and board increasing an additional 3 percent.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama and his speech writers were hard at work on the annual State of the Union address to Congress and the country — an address which took special notice of the expense of higher education.

In the speech on Tuesday, President Obama said Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, student loan interest rates will double in July unless Congress passes a law to prevent it and the number of college work-study jobs must be increased in order to allow more students the opportunity “to earn their way
through college.”

But, President Obama said, increasing student aid is not enough. If college tuition keeps rising, or “skyrocketing,” as Obama so accurately put it, a college degree will simply be unattainable for many.

Already, Marquette is a reach for most students, and the result is a rather elite class of students — at least in terms of our parents’ wealth. The majority of Marquette students are from high to middle-income families, from nice neighborhoods with nice things. Students often complain about the lack of diversity, but with tuition being so expensive, expecting diversity from a socioeconomic perspective seems like a pipedream.

In a letter written to parents announcing the additional expense, University President the Rev. Scott Pilarz said, “affordability, accessibility and debt loans among students and parents remain the university’s primary concerns.”

Indeed, more than 90 percent of Marquette students receive some sort of financial assistance. Yet the value of an incoming freshman’s degree is going to be at least $128,000, plus the hundreds of study hours she put in to making her education meaningful.

Granted, a Marquette degree is a good one to have, and a university such as this is expensive to operate. Professors deserve good salaries and students deserve nice places to live and learn — not to mention, we demand it. The education and degree Marquette gives in return for our one hundred thousand dollars is probably worth it. That’s what I keep telling myself on my way to graduation, at least.

The annual increase, however, is a bit disconcerting. Even though this year’s is only about a 4 percent increase, it translates into more than $1,000— a significant amount of money.

Perhaps significant enough to deter some students from accruing such expensive loans.

It’s an incredibly frustrating reality both the President of the University and the President of the United States hit us with this week: To obtain valuable higher education, we have to pay the price — an expensive debt which could follow graduates for years.

While we’re earning our degrees, we’re also spending thousands more on our education than previous generations. And unless something drastic happens, our children will be spending even more — a frightening thought. Even if Marquette keeps increasing $1,000 annually, in thirty years, it will cost more than $60,000.

I just gasped.

Obama put colleges on notice: “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. Higher education can’t be a luxury – it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

President Obama is right. Something needs to be done — or else a college degree will become even more exclusive. Our nation will become less educated and good jobs more difficult to come by. If the cost of college continues to increase, our nation will not prosper — it will flounder.

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