Originally published on September 16, 2013 at the Central Florida Future
By Juan David
When getting an education harms someone more than it helps, we have to rethink our value structure in America and “shake up the system.”
At least, these were the words President Barack Obama used on Aug. 22 at the University at Buffalo upon announcing plans for a new college rating system tied to financial aid. The plan unfolds regarding education and the struggles of a knowledge-starved America.
Obama’s plan seeks to evaluate colleges on measures such as tuition, graduation rates, graduates’ debt and earnings and the percentage of lower-income student attendees. It is hard to argue with Obama that this is, indeed, “A knowledge-based economy,” but we all know too well that, “shaking up” an entire nation takes more than the desire of the president or the approval of Congress — and I am an optimist.
To many, it may appear like a whole lot of knuckle-bumping jabber and just another one of Obama’s sermonizing speeches; to others, a shake-up is just what thousands of Americans want to hear and know too well about, as they sit and watch the debt of their education pile up.
It’s a great time to talk about college affordability, as it should always be.
The president himself has actively advocated education reforms throughout his tenure. The actions taken by Obama, according to the Huffington Post, eliminated “$60 billion in federal money given to banks to provide loans to students,” and a little over half was invested in Pell Grants instead. But I have to agree with Obama, our job is not done and the cost of college education is unfair. If this is not a comedy of errors in a nation that hosts the best universities, then I don’t know what it is.
UCF’s statistics, however, are quite ironic and a turn of the blinds can result in an awakening to two very attractive realities. “UCF’s tuition and fees, the percentage of students who graduate with debt and the debt load for those students are all below national averages. Our six-year graduation rate is above the national average,” Chad Binette, director of UCF News and Information, said in an email.
However, students like Justin Stonecypher, an international and global studies senior with more than $23,000 in debt who has nearly exhausted the maximum amount of his subsidized loans, might not entirely agree. He argues tuition is not the only factor in creating a dependency on loans, but the cost of textbooks and other college-related expenses also contribute to it also. Binette said half of the students at UCF graduate without debt. That means 30,000 students are in debt. According to Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges data released in January 2013, the average debt at graduation for a UCF student is $20,624.
Tuition is a problem. According to the UCF Tuition and Fees statistics, in-state rate tuition per credit hour is currently at $105.07 today
Tuition hikes to some are out of their reach, and it is hard to understand why this tuition situation prevails at an institution trying to cope with an ever-growing student population.
At UCF, 34 percent of credit hours are currently online, increasing two percent every year, and saving the university $60 million on facility costs, Binette said.
UCF can’t take the blame entirely. I must acknowledge students must accept responsibility for their financial choices. But the truth is, many people entering college have never even opened a bank account or handled a budget.
How is our nation preparing its students in financial education, and what resources are these young people being given to help them become smart borrowers?
Perhaps UCF might consider supporting financial education as a priority for students well before they take out those loans.
You may agree to disagree, but I think Obama is right when he said to lead in the 21st century there is nothing more important than giving everyone the best education possible — from the day they start preschool to the day they start their careers