Now that the Ohio Primary is in our rearview mirror I feel as though I can finally unearth myself from the thousands of political postcards that flooded my mailbox.
Since when did poster-size political propaganda become so popular. Did anyone else notice the absurd size of these “political postcards,” which rivaled the size of my Pink Floyd “The Wall” poster in my college dorm room? They’ll make great fire starters for my bonfire out back later this spring.
Anyways, one area of this whole presidential debate has irritated me more so that any other area — free college education.
To be honest, I think it’s because I’m on track to pay off my student loans this year. Technically, I could write a check today and have them disappear forever, but I’d like to eat more than Ramen noodles this spring. I’ve got a plan in place to get rid of them early by this fall — bank account willing.
When I returned to finish my degree at Urbana University as a single mother in her mid-20s, I had a much different outlook on higher education than the insecure 18 year old in the fall of 2000.
I was ready to complete this goal. I knew the investment was high, because it involved sacrifice, planning and drive to get to graduation day. I had a much more serious outlook as an older college student than the herd of 18 year olds in my classes. Trust me. I was really popular when it came to group projects.
I’ll never forget befriending a young, 18-year-old student named Andre. In fact, he loved to sit directly behind me to cheat off me during our weekly quizzes. He wasn’t a very good cheater, so I offered to help him cram for these tests 10 minutes before class just so he would stop breathing down my neck.
He later told me he went to UU just to keep playing basketball. It was the only reason he was in class. When I pointed out that he could play for free at any park in town instead of paying tens of thousands of dollars at the school — he laughed. He shared that he was only at school to make his mother happy and he didn’t really want to have to work quite yet. He hated the required general education courses. He also wanted to be a police officer, but had a criminal history. Irony, right?
I found it sad that no one took the time to really level with him about his future before he signed that pricey student loan. Sadly, he didn’t return the next semester. While Bernie Sanders would love to make a college education free to all who would like to pursue it, what happens to those who have invested their time and money all these years? If there is no investment, where is the incentive? If kids like Andre truly sat down with a counselor or even took a year off to figure out what they wanted to pursue in life, that would be more of a “free education” than plunking down $0 and wasting valuable time of professors (who paid thousands of dollars for their knowledge and expertise), and students who truly want to walk away with more than a degree.
If kids like Andre just sat down with a counselor or even took a year off to figure out what they wanted to pursue in life, that would be more of a “free education” than plunking down $10,000 and wasting valuable time of professors (who paid thousands of dollars for their knowledge and expertise), and students who truly want to walk away with more than a degree.
In the records section of our own courts, you’ll see hundreds of student loans in various stages of default. I’m sure each story is different. Maybe they weren’t aware of their schools’ reputation, or maybe they dropped out due to circumstances beyond their control.
Every student knows how much they will need to start their first day of class. It’s simple math. To ignore the price or begin a process without any means in sight, isn’t the government’s problem — it’s the student’s problem. If there is no investment other than time in the world of education, it will simply mean lecture halls will be filled with more Andres.
If there is no price tag in college education, it will keep those who truly want to succeed or learn beyond the high school level floating in and out of lectures halls for years with no clear direction.
Community college serves a wonderful purpose. It’s close to home. It’s affordable. It has staff who will help point a student in the direction they want to go for a reasonable cost.
While I’m completely for affordable education, the best things in life aren’t free — they are earned. “Feel the Earn.”
“Twin” Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News.