The Pursuit of Education: Critical Analysis
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” (Mandela). This quote was said by Nelson Mandela when he was referring to the true importance of education in our world today. Education is what leads our country to progress, become innovative, and create things that could change the world. Education is seen as a fundamental right that all Americans have and should be able to pursue, however, there are several complications that arise with it. In 1776, our country’s foundation was set by the Declaration of Independence, in which it was stated that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (US 1776). in which all humans would be treated fairly and where every person would have equal opportunities. However, this vision has not come true yet, as one of the rights that are not currently accessible to all is “the pursuit of Happiness” (US 1776). The right is defined as the ability to “freely pursue joy and live life in a way that makes you happy”(“pursuit of happiness”). For several people, happiness is provided through a sense of attaining higher education, but as time progresses, several issues have arisen, not allowing students to pursue higher education, forcing them to stop the pursuit of their dreams. Equal access to the right of the pursuit of happiness has not been obtained yet for students in the area of higher education due to high costs and student loan debt, leaving students unable to pay for college.
Students are unable to pursue higher education due to the extremely high costs, depriving them of their ability to pursue happiness. In 2008, it was reported in a CNBC article by Abigail Hess, that college costs were “$38,720 at private colleges and $16,460 at public colleges” (Hess). Since then, the cost of college has gone up about 25 percent as now costs are “$48,510 and $21,370” (Hess). It was said in a New York Times article by Adam Davidson that the median income of a household today is “around $64,000” (Davidson). He says that the income that is earned is used to pay for a house, purchase a car, and purchase household items, leaving a family with very little to pay for college. He states that the cost of attending a private institution “is roughly three times as expensive as it was in 1974,” and how the cost of attending a public institution “has risen by nearly four times,” (Davidson) making it even tougher for students to pay for college. Due to these high costs, many students are unable to pursue what they enjoy and what they want to do in the future and are rather forced to pick up a small, minimum wage paying job as they do not have enough money to pay for college. When students are forced to pick up a small job in which they have no interest in, they are being stripped of their interests and future dreams. They are unable to pursue a career or job that they have an interest in due to their financial situation and are obligated to do something that will allow them to sustain a life in today’s world. According to a poll conducted on millennials by the Harvard Kennedy School, “70 percent of our sample reported that financial circumstances played an important role in their decision whether or not to pursue a college education” (Harvard Kennedy School). It just shows how the financial situation plays an important role in going to college as the college has become too expensive for many to afford. The costs of higher education keep rising, therefore, it will become even more difficult for students to pay for college. Students are unable to fulfill their dreams and pursue what they enjoy due to the unreasonable costs of pursuing higher education, portraying the unequal access to their right to the pursuit of happiness.
However, there are several programs and opportunities that are provided to help students pursue higher education. In her article for the New York Times, Ann Carrns points out several opportunities that the government has created such as “federal need-based Pell grants,” and “FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is required for federal grants and loans, and for scholarships” (Carrns). Several scholarships are offered as well to help students pay for college. Major companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Coca-Cola offer scholarships, giving students with funds to pay for college which can range anywhere from $100 to $30,000. There are several programs that are available for students who are financially constrained, allowing them to fulfill their dreams and do things they enjoy in life, basically enabling them to pursue happiness.
However, most of the financial aid opportunities and programs that are offered are only provided to students whose family income demonstrates a need for financial aid. For instance, Carrns states in her article that even though grants are offered, “the maximum grant covered less than a third of the college costs in 2018” as reported by the Institute for College And Success (Carrns). The situation is similar for FAFSA as well as shown by Richard Pérez-Peña, a writer for the New York Times, Peña states that “if a college calculates that a student’s need is $30,000, it might offer only $15,000 in an aid package, leaving families with difficult choices — to make up the rest with private bank loans, go to a less expensive school, or even postpone education” (Peña). Many families need financial aid, however, they are unable to get it as their income is high, as when the government sees that your income exceeds $100,000, they think that families will be able to pay for their children’s’ college education. While a family’s income might be high there are as well several other costs that are present that they have to pay such as bills, housing payments, food, insurance, and many more things, leaving them with very little to pay for the child’s education. The financial aid program does not take into account all those other costs, forcing students to take up other options to pay for education, which ends up being very troublesome as they are even more costly, taking away from a student’s ability to do what they love.
Due to the rising costs of college and the inability to get financial aid, students are forced to take out loans if they want to pursue higher education, which is even more burdensome and eventually lead them to be in debt. In an article written on Marketplace by Samantha Fields, it is said that “roughly 70 percent of American students end up taking out loans to go to college” (Fields). It is also said that “the average graduate leaves school with $30,000 in debt” and that “some 45 million Americans owe $1.6 trillion in student loans – and counting” (Fields). The burden that is placed on students is severe as students are forced to repay their student loans, which can take several years based on the job that you get after college. Student loans cause a great amount of worry for students as large amounts of their income ends up going to pay off their student loans, leaving them with very little amounts of money to enjoy and do things they love. In an article for CNBC, Annie Nova said that “70% of college graduates start off their lives in the red,” referring to how many students start their lives off in debt due to loans (Nova). Rebecca Lake, a writer for The Balance, talked about how “as of the first quarter of 2018, 11% of student loan borrowers were delinquent or in default on their loans” (Lake). What she means is that borrowers are struggling to keep up with their loan payments as they don’t have the financial capability to pay their loans on time. Student loans not only hurt students but hurt our country as well, as due to students not paying back loans, the economy of our nation takes a severe impact. This idea is depicted by Martin Luther King Jr. in his letter, “Letters from a Birmingham Jail,” when he said, “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly,” implying how student loan debt primarily affects students but also has an effect on our country as a whole (King Jr.). The idea of taking a loan is a liability as students are having to pay off their loans for several years, not allowing them to enjoy their higher education and the success that comes with it. Student loan debt has left students very burdened as they are forced to think about paying off their loans rather than going and pursuing their dreams. Students are unable to achieve their right of pursuing happiness due to the large amounts of student loans and debt they are weighed down by.
Jefferson envisioned a future in which all people in America would be able to do as they please, do whatever allows them to enjoy life, however, the country has not reached that true reality yet. The pursuit of happiness has still yet to be achieved, as students are unable to live their lives and pursue their dreams, as they are unable to pursue higher education due to high costs and student loan debt. Education is a fundamental part of our world today as it is what leads to progress and promotes change and difference in our world. There is hope that in the future, there are more opportunities for students to pursue higher education without having to take out loans and accumulate debt, allowing them to be happy and live without any trouble. As said by American philosopher Mortimer Adler, “The ultimate end of education is happiness or a good human life, a life enriched by the possession of every kind of good, by the enjoyment of every type of satisfaction” (Adler).