Friday, March 17, 2006

Posturing vs. Reality

Go read today's article in Inside Higher Education, re: the U.S. Senate's increasing funding for higher education. Then read the comments by some clown* from the Cato Institute, who argues really funding for education is quite high, and besides, it's funded by robbing Americans through taxation. Gah! Here is my response:

[This is posted in that article link on IHE, but because of it's relevance to this blog, I post it here.]

Sorry, Neal, we'll have to step back a bit from the ideological posturing. Statistics can tell us whatever we want them to, especially in an age where we can so easily manipulate (or fabricate) them to suit our needs.

Let's step back from the broad scope, let's forget the forest for a moment, and just look at the trees. I'll tell you something about me. I'm 38. I have a wife and two kids. I began college at the tender age of 15 (surviving off of Pell grants and the limited largess of my family). I worked part time during my first two years of college. Then took off for four years to work full-time. I returned to school in 1989, then transferred to a new school in 1990 (beginning again as a freshman in my fourth year of college). I was young and didn't quite know what I wanted to study.

All along, I maintained an A- average. I worked to support myself (waiting tables, mowing grass, fundraising for the university, taking odd jobs and temp work). Student loans were the only way I could sustain myself. I graduated with a Bachelor's degree, and began a Master's program in 1994. More student loans. My full scholarship did not cover my living expenses. More part-time work, and full-time classes.

I taught at a community college for two years after that. My measly income from that worthy activity was about $6000/yr. I supported myself by teaching privately, tutoring, and other part-time and temporary work.

Today, I have a PhD. And I have no income. My student loans amount to nearly $74,000. I've never been late on a payment. I've applied for about 90 jobs in my field in the past two years. No job. Sure, I could take a job as barrista at Starbuck's, shelve books for Border's, or work at the checkout at Walmart. Is that what education is for? Is that in the best interest of these United States (and the world) that highly educated folks like me have difficulty working as educators?

But why is it difficult in this economy? Because there is not enough funding for education! Because our government puts a higher priority on subsidizing the private student loan industry than in providing direct loans, or better providing funding to support education without forcing students into debt. It's a simple answer. Sure, it's complicated to execute. But isn't the education of our people worth it?

Sorry to say, Neal, we do have an obligation to the greater good. And part of the obligation is ponying up our dollars to benefit society.

*Edited, to remove the name. This clown from the CATO institute is so vain, he keeps running google searches of his name, and pulling up my blog. I tired of seeing it in my stats!

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