When I was a college student, anyone could pay for their own college education with a summer job and a Pell Grant (or scholarship). Back then, Pell Grants covered almost 80% of the tuition. Today, Pells only cover about 18%.
Public colleges – you know, the ones funded by your hard earned taxes – were established to provide an equal opportunity for all students who wanted to get a college degree. Anyone from any background could lift themselves out of poverty and into a successful career by sheer grit and determination.
I’m worried that the divide between the haves and the have nots is going to create class wars. Socioeconomic status dictates who has more opportunities to advance themselves than race, gender, or religion do.
When bright and eager students from low-income families don’t apply to colleges because they don’t want to start their lives in debt, that’s a big red flag in my book. The wealthy students spend 4 years at elite campuses – I remember my father telling me that my college was like a country club! – taking classes, living in dorms, partying every night, and not worrying one bit about paying the $250,000 or more for a bachelor’s degree.
Yes, two years at a community college does reduce your college tuition by 50% but only 35% of low-income students actually transfer to a 4-year college. When that much-sought-after bachelor’s degree is the surest way for low-income students to break out of poverty, these stats just aren’t fair.