by Roya, 08/19/2012, 12:23 PM

This year I will be starting college in France and I am going to France for two reasons. One being that I love France, its language and culture; the other being that I will be paying roughly $400 for my annual tuition without scholarships, grants, loans taken out or federal aid. (And additionally, I am still able to apply for federal aid for my housing). I am not able to go to a respected university in my own country without going into debt for the next few decades. It wasn’t always this way. And it doesn’t have to be.

Since the 1980’s the percentage of the federal budget that has been spent on education has decreased significantly, while the cost of education has skyrocketed and increased more than 5x the rates of inflation.

Some argue that we can’t afford to put more money into public universities. I say that’s a lie. We waste plenty of money into defense spending on weapons we will never use. Some defense spending is of course important, but to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into things we have no need for, or will never use is fiscally irresponsible.

What we can’t afford is committing an entire generation of educated people to the debt sentence. People starting their lives with tens of thousands of dollars in debt will not only severely damage our economy but it will also alienate entire groups of people who are brilliant and have potential that will either never be able to develop it or be struggling too hard to pay back into loans to be able to invest in their dreams.

The tuition costs we have now specifically hinder growth and that is not what education is about and it is not what our country says we’re about either. We say that we are the country of possibilities that anyone who works hard can make their way in the world. So then why am I someone who has worked hard for years needing to leave my country just to have access to a decent education without starting my adulthood in debt? I have stayed in the top 5% rankings in my class in one of the best schools in the country, a National Honor Society Member, took 10 AP classes, 5 honors classes and 5 classes that were considered college in high school classes for which I received college credit. I was a JV athlete in cross-country, a captain and varsity athlete in gymnastics and a varsity athlete in track and field in my high school. Additionally, I have babysat since I was 12 and babysat with an additional job from the time I was 16. And this year, on top of those two jobs, I had an internship with Darcy Burner.

So the fact that I didn’t receive enough scholarships to make school reasonably priced is not based on the fact that I didn’t work hard or didn’t do well in school. For every dollar in scholarships available there are 2 dollars of tuition. In the past, this number was reversed.

This week at a student activism conference, I met some students who have been in the ongoing protests in Quebec. They have had hundreds of thousands of students in the streets protesting and on strike because of the plan to have tuition raised from $2,168 to $3,793 between 2012 and 2017. When an American student at the conference asked, “why are you striking? You have the lowest tuition in Canada.” The Quebecois student responded, “we have the lowest tuition in Canada BECAUSE WE STRIKE.”

So, why are we not all in the streets? We’ve normalized the way in which we deal with tuition and higher education but that doesn’t make it right. We need to fight for our right to an education. As a country we seem to agree with that from elementary school until high school so what makes higher education any different?

We can do better than this. We can fight for our right to education. If not an education that is as cheap as it is in France, at least something that is more manageable for the average citizen.The students of this country need to step up and stand together to fight for access to education without going into debt before it’s too late.

12 Responses to “The Debt Sentence”

1. "little maxie" the asshat troll is just another ignorant, lying, right wing, racist hater. spews:


The U.S. Senate and the electoral college almost guarantees that right wing idiots opposed to you getting “free stuff” will always have a seat at the table in this country..

I’ve also read that changing demographics might mean things change for the better in this country but by that time we may be living under a fascist dictatorship that serves only the interests of the shrinking moneyed elite and their lackeys. A dictatorship run by a man on horseback.

A Canadian blogger Ian Welsh highly recommends that if you have the opportunity to get out of this country and make a living doing so by all means do that. Good luck.

2. Roger Rabbit spews:

I wonder if there’s a correlation between this …

“Since the 1980’s the percentage of the federal budget that has been spent on education has decreased significantly, while the cost of education has skyrocketed and increased more than 5x the rates of inflation.”

and this …

“From 1979 to 2007, inflation-adjusted incomes of the top … 0.1 percent … saw their incomes grow 390%. In contrast, incomes for the bottom 90 percent grew just 5 percent between 1979 and 2007.”

The Republican answer to this is raising taxes on the 99% so the 0.1% don’t have to pay any taxes at all.

3. Michael spews:

Roya, good job figuring out that you can still get a kickass education and not go hugely in debt. I deplore what’s happened with college costs and student loan debt in this country. Unfortunately the answer to this problem lies more in students finding ways around the debt trap than anything we’ll see from the colleges themselves or from state and federal government.

4. Siberian Dog spews:

The Backbone Campaign seems to have a plan for organizing around this issue. Listen to the podcast about Student Debt:

5. Roger Rabbit spews:

When you’re young, it’s easy to focus solely on student debt, but there’s a bigger picture here: Throughout your adult life, your two greatest enemies are consumption and debt. Those who build their lives on consumption and debt will find themselves, at the end, standing on quicksand.

Education, though intangible, is a real asset of real value. It has productive capacity. Thus, education is investment, not consumption. A $1 million house or $100,000 sports car is, on the other hand, pure consumption.

Now think about the policy direction our country is taking. We’re cutting public spending on education to give tax breaks to people who live in $1 million houses and drive $100,000 sports cars. Will that make our country more prosperous in the future? For that matter, will it even make the beneficiaries of this consumption more prosperous? Or will they end up broke and unemployed along with the rest of us when there is no productive work left?

6. Roger Rabbit spews:

“We say that we are the country of possibilities that anyone who works hard can make their way in the world.”

No one works harder than these folks:

And this is their reward:

7. Roya spews:

To: “little maxie” the asshat troll is just another ignorant, lying, right wing, racist hater.
I agree with what you’re saying and yet – it’s not really free, we’d all contribute our fair share. It’s just weird to me that we seem to mostly agree as a country that education should be free up to high school and yet as soon as that’s over, now we have to pay tens of thousands of dollars a year for education. That’s not right. And I am getting out of the country to avoid debt and am going into what I believe is a country with a much better system for many things I think we could do better here but I don’t want to just abandon this country, I’d rather fight for it if I have that option.

To: Roger Rabbit
Yep, I’m pretty sure there is a direct correlation. I mentioned only military spending as an example, but there are a lot of fiscally irresponsible policies that are contributing to the tuition hikes that have been happening since the 80′s. Also, yes it is an investment – which of course an investment has to be made whether that is time, work or money but as it stands, the tuition cots are way too high in my opinion and we can do something about that. And yes, I agree that they work extremely hard and are treated like crap but at the same time, there are so many people that think they have the job they have because they don’t work hard which is ridiculous.

So, what I suggest is if we can unite and fight against tuition costs in this country, why don’t we? Because it can work if we can all show that it’s a huge problem. Like with what’s happening in Quebec. But obviously that’s going to take a lot of time and work so I do have to find my way around it but I still think if we fought it, we could win. If not winning free education, at least winning a significant reduction in costs.

To:Siberian Dog
Thanks! I will check that out, I appreciate it!

8. Dan Brown spews:


This isn’t new, of course. And in fact it is worse for people who “go back” to school. They already have established responsibilities; they can’t just “stop.”

I went back in the early 1990′s and I am still paying off the loans. It’s a con game.

9. Serial Conservative spews:

We’re seeing a move toward online education. Indiana has a program.

WGU Indiana Online University

You will see much more of this in the future. It puts a cap on fees and enables students to live at home, saving room/board costs.

Sorry about that college experience thing falling by the wayside. Instead of protesting on the quad, just head down to Occupy Seattle to do it.

10. rhp6033 spews:

# 9: Online education has lots of promises, especially for those going back to school after they have established their lives. If they have already completed at least a couple of years of college, it makes some sense. But you have to be careful – a lot of for-profit colleges are jumping onto this bandwagon, and some are little more than a reading list followed by a cursory exam.

But I have some reservations. An online degree really doesn’t replace some aspects of the student experience: the give and take between professers and students; the general direction which a professer can give his students with respect to which classes to take, which authors have a specific bias, etc.; the access to accomplished scholars (some with valuable real-world experience) in small classes at the junior and senior level. (I took a class on U.S./Soviet foreign policy issues and nuclear disarmement issues my senior year as an undergraduate under a professer who was closely involved in the Salt I negotiations).

11. ArtFart spews:

@9, @10 Online education has its good and its bad points. Unfortunately a big part of the “bad” is that a lot of for-profit institutions have popped up like mushrooms that do some pretty questionable things. The worst string students along, slurping up their student-loan tuition and finding some excuse or other to withold degrees for as long as they can keep on paying. They’ll come up with vague reasons why “the academic review board has determined you must take course xxx and repeat project yyy”. Then they eventually kick them out anyway, still with no sheepskin but up to their butts in debt.

12. ArtFart spews:

I’ve looked into some programs under which those who already have a four-year degree can obtain a “certificate” in a related field….but obtaining a six-month certificate from the UW in some advanced technology or an electronic-arts field (I’m rather interested in videography or audio production) would cost many times more than it did to obtain my four-year engineering degree in the early 1970′s.