We had so many problems back in 2012 I decided to compile a list of them, then briefly explain and propose solutions to each issue. I found inspiration in the Occupy Wall St. Movement and Martin Luther’s “95 Theses,” specifically his format and purpose, which led me to my title “99 Problems: Disputations on the Power, Efficacy, and Indulgences of the United States Government, Businesses, and Other Institutions.” The “99” of course being a nod to the “99%” of the OWSM as well as the number of issues examined.
Originally it was intended to run as a long, multi-part essay in my local college paper, but it was too long. Around the same time we changed our editors and modifying the piece was put on hold and eventually I just forgot about it for a while. Then a year, or so ago I decided to track it down in my old files and actually edit and self-publish it. As kept coming back to it on and off again for a while until I finally finished my edits. But something struck me: it was too old, too much had changed, and the tone was all wrong for 2018.
Now, I’m making revisions and updates to each of the 99 theses. I’m also going to be posting some of the longer sections as I go so I can keep writing for the blog while finishing a long overdue project. And unfortunately, while rereading it became clear that almost every problem had gotten worse and the stakes of solving them ever higher.
The following is from “99 Problems: Disputations on the Power, Efficacy, and Indulgences of the United States Government, Businesses, and Other Institutions.”
4 – Pay College Students
The cost of higher education has risen, and is still rising, at a meteoric pace that far outruns inflation making it harder to attain especially for low income families. Historically, education has been something for the elites: the wealthy, the nobility, etc. But this is the United States in the 21st century. Unfortunately, we have already largely regressed to this outdated mode where education increasingly something only for the wealthy. The current generation is already straddled with massive college debt and future generations of prospective students know this. The next generation will likely reject the financial risk of a college education altogether. Looming college debt has already led to problems with the economy and the overall quality of life for tens of millions of Americans with no solutions, or relief in sight.
When only the wealthy are able to attain higher education then only the wealthy will maintain the positions that allow wealth to be created. Already, there exists a large population of surplus labor enabling businesses to keep wages low because somebody’s always poor and desperate enough to work whenever current employees burn out, or quit. As education decreases in its accessibility the undereducated will increasingly flood the bottom of job market with even more surplus labor. And, despite what CEO’s might think, this helps nobody, not even themselves, because if the majority of Americans are struggling to pay for essentials, they will not be spending money on other things like new cars, houses, televisions, computers, or any other non-essential products. The owners of many companies will begin making less because no one can afford to buy what they make. This may lead to even fewer jobs being available which will only compound the problem further.
Living costs have increased. The price of a diploma has increased while its value has decreased as has the average salary accompanying said diploma. And often more advanced (and expensive) schooling is required for students to enter their desired field. Students are often mocked when picking a non-business, or non-STEM, major because our society does not truly value the humanities, arts, or education for their own sakes, but because of this stigma and devaluation other fields are oversaturated making employment competitive and difficult to find.
The solution may be to follow the lead of some European nations which have various means of paying for higher education. Some countries like Germany and Finland have free tuition for all students. Others not only have free tuition, but provide students with money so they can live without being forced to work the entire time they’re in school, thus allowing them to better focus on their studies, and presumably also saving them some sanity and stress. This money could from different sources at state and federal levels. If the US can afford to build multi-million dollar fighter jets and stealth aircraft en masse, it can afford to invest in its own future via higher education for all who want it.