Columnist misses the mark on tuition ‘truth’

ABBI COBB, Columnist

I would like to take this week’s column to address “The truth about your college tuition” by fellow columnist Gabe Gravert.

It’s confusing to me that a columnist that identifies as part of a cohort that “will take any kind of money you can give us without even thinking about it,” would ignorantly argue in opposition to free college tuition.

I don’t know if this was a helter-skelter attack on Senator Sanders, or if Gravert became a little lax on doing his due diligence by fact-checking his statements. At any rate, there are several fallacies and holes found in the argument that I would like to address.

First, college student debt statistics take into account enrollment rates and they are also adjusted for inflation. This is what statisticians call an “average.” Therefore, when the news came out that 2015 college graduates are the most indebted graduate class ever, it was without deceit. And guess what – that trend is predicted to continue, with each class following 2015 being even higher, according to a government data analysis by Mark Kantrowits, nationally-recognized expert on financial aid and creator of FinAid. So, no, student debt rates aren’t higher because enrollment is higher. There’s actually a problem here.

Second, there is very little substance to arguing that increases in college enrollment due to free tuition will affect the value of a degree. Hate to burst your bubble, but in most fields of study the value of a bachelor’s degree has already depreciated. What’s great about that is that in some cases it may force individuals to further continue their education, which generally, would create a more qualified workforce and a more educated society. And just to be clear, there really is nothing wrong with a more educated society.

To quote Gravert’s dissent directly, “People from all over and all walks of life will be signing up for college and free tuition.” My problem with this is that I don’t see a problem.

I mean, God forbid we give disadvantaged people a boost by addressing the United States’ poverty rate with educational opportunity. After all, that would be too easy because we already know that more education equals higher salaries equals lower poverty equals lower crime. And if we don’t keep people oppressed, then who would we have to blame for everything?

But, let’s not confuse the problem of college affordability as an individual problem. Instead, let’s remember this is a societal issue. Thus, bringing me to the myth of bootstrapping. Can we stop saying that working hard is an alternative to drowning in student loan debt? Or just altogether stop saying that working hard is the solution to any hardship for that matter? You do realize that creating your own wealth is not equally attainable for people, right? Some of us start on much lower playing fields. So, please, do not waste time offering unrealistic suggestions, such as instead of accruing debt at an extortionate rate students should receive scholarships or work through school. We are already doing that.

Gravert’s suggestion that Sanders’ plan for free college tuition is “not thought-out very well”  runs contrary to what’s happening in countries like Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Finland, etc, where it is working well, according to Heather Gautney, PhD professor of sociology at Fordham University.

Bottom line: “It is a national disgrace that hundreds of thousands of Americans today do not go to college, not because they are unqualified, but because they cannot afford it. This is absolutely counter-productive to our efforts to create a strong economy and a vibrant middle class. This disgrace has got to end,” from the man himself, Bernie Sanders.

His plan for tuition-free college would require two-thirds of the funding to come from the federal government, which would derive from a tax on financial transactions. The breakdown of funding is as follows: .5 percent on stock trades, .1 percent on bonds, and .005 percent on derivative trading, according to Sanders’ campaign website.

It’s about time we make Wall Street pay. I don’t know about you, but enough is enough.