In today’s competitive world, a post-secondary education is practically a requirement for securing a reasonable standard of living. While a college education awards personal advantages and advantages for the nation as a whole, students and their families are increasingly being asked to pay a greater share of those costs.
An overview of the literature reveals that an alarming level of state disinvestment has occurred between 1990 and 2010. While state spending on education increased by $10.5 billion between 1910 and 2010, these increases have not kept pace with growing college enrollment and population growth. State funding per public full-time equivalent dropped by 26.1 percent from 1990 to 2010.
As state government funding of colleges has eroded over the last two decades, tuition and fees have reached unprecedented heights. These increases are leading to big student debt, decreasing access for low and moderate income students and ultimately making the U.S. less competitive as a nation.
Tuition and fees at public, four year colleges has more than doubled and increased by a whopping 112.5 percent. The cost for two year colleges increased by 71 percent during the same timeframe.
The amount of outstanding debt for American students has grown by a factor of 4.5 since 1999. North Carolina has long been a leader for their thoughtful investments in higher education their $917.2 million dollar state budget has reduced funding to public colleges and universities to a forty year low.
All of these attacks on public higher education are occurring at a time when American Household income has stagnated. Median household income in America has risen only 2 percent between 1990 and 2010. When these factors are calculated together, the sum total provides for an ominous outcome left unchecked. In addition, students that are graduating from college are facing a number of harsh realities not experienced by college grads before them.
A recent Associated Press report revealed that more than half of new grads are either unemployed or are working at jobs that don’t provide enough hours, enough pay or the promise of a brighter future. The report further reveals that many parents will be continuing to provide financial support to their children in the form of helping to pay college loans and in providing their children a place to live.
Currently, a higher portion of young adults are living with their parents than at any other time in the last forty years. This phenomenon is so widespread that these children returning home are referred to as “boomerangs.” In a poll conducted in 2011, it was found that 43 percent of all 18-24 year olds delayed moving into their own place and delayed buying their own home because of outstanding college debt and low paying jobs.
Historically, young people have participated in the real estate market as first time home buyers and their absence is being felt across our national economy. It seems especially risky for America to defund public colleges are we are facing stiffer completion in the world market as other nations economic vitality improves. It has been long agreed that education is the key element to upward mobility and this belief is still largely true as college graduates unemployment rate is 4.2 percent and 8.3 percent for everyone else.
College grads are taking lower paying jobs making them less available to those with less education that might have competed for those jobs historically. In both instances young workers are taking jobs with less security, benefits and opportunity than their parents or grandparents enjoyed. Economists are predicting that it may take another decade to reach full employment in America leaving the current generation left out of the opportunity to do better or as well as their parents. I have not yet heard anyone blaming the current generation for the situation that confronts them though that eventuality would not surprise me.
It has been said that the baby boomer generation are the greediest Americans that ever lived. Given the poor performance by our leadership toward future generations, I am becoming a believer. The great war chief Sitting Bull told his people that if they were to succeed and prosper that first, “Let us put our minds together and see life we can make for our children.” An axiom that our leaders have begun to lose sight of.
Remember, all kids count.
Reach the writer at Hurlburt@wildblue.net