"In the 21st century the best anti-poverty program around is a world class education," said President Barack Obama during a January speech in which he advocated for $10,000 tax credits for families with children in college, and the increase of Pell grants for low-income students attending college. Though the President talked of making education more affordable, students are protesting school budget cuts they say will lead to increased campus costs and a lower quality of education.
Rallies, teach-ins and marches are planned today (April 13) at all 23 California State Universities in opposition to the cuts. Similar actions are happening at campuses in Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey where cuts to school funding have been proposed as a way to close state budget deficits. For the average college freshman, less funding translates to lower financial aid packages, higher student-to-teacher ratios and fewer student services and programs.
California students are hoping that voters approve a temporary tax increases proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown in order to prevent a $500 million dollar loss in state funding. Said Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association: "What's at stake is really the future of the California State University and the ability of this whole generation to get a college education."
In the same January speech, President Obama said that no American should go broke because they went to college. In order to lessen the debt plaguing many students and families, he has emphasized the importance of funding community colleges, waiving student loans after 20 years in the workforce and after 10 years if a graduate chooses a career in public service. Unfortunately, a lot of graduates do face heavy financial burdens and will likely continue to if these budget cuts persist.
He has also admitted that in today's competitive job market, an education does not necessarily guarantee a great job, but it is an essential part of pursuing a career.
But enrollment numbers don't lie. This year graduate school and especially law school applications have dropped as more students who may have once dreamed of adding esquire to their names now realize that a career as an attorney may not be as glamorous and lucrative as once thought.
The 'Wall Street Journal' has reported that "the number of law-school applicants this year is down 11.5 percent from a year ago to 66,876, according to the Law School Admission Council Inc. The figure, which is a tally of applications for the fall 2011 class, is the lowest since 2001 at this stage of the process."
And black graduation rates in general reside at a dismal 43 percent, 20 percent lower than graduation rates for whites, according to a CBS report.
Despite Obama's well-intentioned rhetoric, unless the proposed slashes in spending are resolved, we may see fewer and fewer students able to afford higher education as its costs threaten to outweigh its benefits.