Tag Archives: Debt

Give me education or give me debt!

By Ken Johnson

Community college helps to bridge the chasm between the American dream and the American reality.

The United States, more than most other countries, prescribes a narrative over the lives of its citizens: grade school, university, career, retirement, and then an uncomfortable death at an unfamiliar hospital, doped up on morphine.

In most of the country, high-school graduates are expected to go to college, and about 70 percent of them do, according to Pew Research Center — that’s up 20 percent from 1970.

Many jobs that didn’t previously require a university degree, such as salesperson or pilot, now require some sort of degree. And that’s a little weird because a bachelor’s degree in history has nothing to do with flying a plane.

Even if someone manages to find a job that doesn’t require some sort of degree, people with degrees look down their noses at people without degrees, especially in cities like Bellingham.

A college degree might as well be the star on the belly of a sneetch.

So a university degree is a status symbol, as well as a prerequisite for landing a job. On the surface, that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing: a liberal arts education can provide context to an otherwise confusing life and help people become more informed citizens. It seems like that, if everyone was educated, there would be fewer problems in the world — fewer Donald Trumps.

Except that college is dangerously expensive.

In 2017, according to Pew Research Center, there was over $1.3 trillion in American student debt, and the average recipient of a bachelor’s degree was over $25,000 in collegiate debt. Roughly half of the people who have bachelor’s degrees do not think that the benefit of the degree outweighs the financial cost. That’s a 50 percent college-regret rate.

And some organizations, such the Huffington Post, have found a connection between student loans and suicide.

Is a liberal arts degree really worth all that?

No. It’s not.

Especially when the reason why anyone would get a liberal arts education is considered. I mean, think about the phrase “liberal arts.” In Latin “liberal” is generally synonymous with “freedom” or “the pursuit of a freeman” — think about the word “liberty.”

I’m not a linguist, but the point I’m trying to make is that a liberal arts education is all about being free. It’s about being able to think for yourself and engage with the world on your own terms.

But there is absolutely nothing liberating about being crushed and churned around in a Sisyphean cycle of debt.

So on one hand, a liberal arts education is a nice thing to have, but on the other hand, getting one ruins lives.

That brings me to community college: the happy medium between an irreparable credit score and being able to name the impacts of climate change.

Community college has two main benefits: it’s cheaper, and everybody is accepted.

There is a special kind of dumb hypocrisy in wanting everyone to go to college, but then turning away a lot of potential students, because, however high an acceptance rate is, some people are still being denied.

Community college is pragmatic where most American universities are elitist. The realization that community colleges have made is that most Americans are not 18 years old and wealthy.

Some people need to work while they’re in school. Some people grow old, not Neil Patrick Harris, but some people.

Community college has flaws and in no way fixes everything. It’s kind of like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound… it helps, a little.

It keeps the good part of going to university — the education — and mitigates the bad parts — the debt and self-loathing.

Community college should expand, and it should become free.

I’m no financial analyst, but maybe we should spend money on educating people before we spend money on shiny Star Wars-style military jets.

Hell, with 1.3 trillion in debt, a crafty government could really get cracking on some state-sponsored terrorism. And if it’s lucky, even topple a democratically elected socialist.

Or educate its citizens.


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The true meaning of the American dream

By: Gregory Lane

Photo by Lyric Otto
Photo by Lyric Otto

America is not the greatest country on God’s green earth. And we’re not a runner-up either. The economy is far from ideal for nearly all Americans, and plenty are without jobs or homes. Our educational system is embarrassing—its goal is to create devout workers instead of open minds, and too many are unable to graduate from high school and even college with useful life skills, if they graduate at all. Speaking of school, killings at schools are becoming regular, if not expected, tragedies. It’s become the norm for children to grow up in broken or divorced homes. The nation plummets in an ocean of debt, which stands at over $17,514,857,000,000 during the writing of this article. Oh and we can send a vastly underpaid 18-year-old to war overseas but he or she can’t buy a beer at the local bar. How did this happen, America?

I’m not going to blame the Grand Old Party, dead cowboy movie presidents, or sing about how Fox News is brainwashing the masses. And I’m definitely not pointing a finger at unchecked liberal media, environmentalists, or the Democrats.

There is this awful tendency to blame someone or something or even concepts for problems which arise from countless factors and contributors, most of which are unforeseeable. It feels like I’m watching a contest whenever I read an article online or listen to the news; who or what is going to be on the hate radar today? Will it be Obama? Bush? Feminists? Terrorists? Video Games? Movies? Aliens? The gay agenda? Gun advocates? When will we stop lobbying for a certain angle whenever something goes wrong?

It’s offensive to the victims and to the concept of empirical evidence when something like whether or not a murderer played video games is a sign of his or her violent behavior. It’s ignorant and prejudiced to wonder if a terrorist’s religious label is a primary identifier. It’s ridiculous to assume one man, even the president, in a massive government like the United States, is the sole reason for why it’s hard to find a job right now.

Yet, throughout all our failures and issues, we hold the potential for the greatest country this world has ever seen. I’m tired of hearing how the United States should be more like Europe, or how life was better in the ‘50s. The spirit of America is built upon the ability to stand on two feet and pick up those who have stumbled, not complain and whine. America has the size, the resources, the strength, and desire to carry this spirit.

We have had impressive leaders, men and women at the forefront of science, industry, the arts, justice, and discovery—Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt—America is a land of heroes and heroines, from the struggling parent raising a child, the small business owner, and the starving artists, to the men and women in D.C. and those in executive meetings for Microsoft and Google.

Each and every person here has the potential to contribute, to be a hero to someone and themselves, and I want every soul living under the red, white, and blue proud to be an American. This of course means innumerable and different things to everyone, and it is that diversity which makes the United States experiment unique and successful.

Don’t have a job? Volunteer where you’re needed. Divorced and loveless? Love those around you and love yourself. Lost everything and saw your life shatter into pieces? Pick them up, one at a time, or leave them for something new—make decisions, contribute, work, live with a purpose.

For a concept as impersonal and inflated as America, I’ve still seen nothing more representative of the human condition. We reach so high and yet suffer immensely. We suffer not without meaning, not without fighting, and not without growing—that’s the real American dream.

 


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