Making College Affordable

With a teenager ready to graduate high school in 2006, the thought of sending her to college looms over my head. The cuts to education keep getting deeper with the Bush administration. Congressman John Tierney of MA, presented the Democrats plan for a fix to many of these cuts in a well laid out OP/ED in the Boston Globe. “The future of our young people and our country hangs in the balance.”

Making college affordable
By John F. Tierney | July 22, 2005

AT A TIME when a college degree has never been more important and the cost of education has reached an all-time high, the outcome of the reauthorization by Congress of the Higher Education Act, which encompasses the federal government’s major student aid programs, has never been more important.

China and India together reportedly will annually graduate 5.1 million college students, most with English proficiency and 400,000 with engineering backgrounds. These statistics compare with the 2.1 million US college graduates and 60,000 engineers. Further, only two out of every 10 American students who start high school graduate from a four-year college or university with a bachelor’s degree.

The economic case for more postsecondary education, together with the need for talented people capable of solving our most pressing national and community problems and the need for an informed, civic-minded citizenry, compel attention to the issue. Access to an affordable, high-quality education is inseparable from our economic prosperity, national security, and civic health.


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12 Responses to Making College Affordable

  1. marie says:

    We will have 2 in college next year! It’s a crying shame how expensive it is. All I can say is that kids going to college now had better earn a degree that will land them a decent job so they can pay off their student loans.


  2. marie Says:
    July 23rd, 2005 at 2:27 pm

    No kidding. It’s frightening how much the costs have risen in recent years. Pell Grants keep getting cut more and more. It’s daunting for the kids and their families.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I was out of college for a few years when November 2 happened, but my girlfriend has gone back to college and she could’ve really been helped if Kerry had won and his “Service for College” plan and his Pell Grant reforms had been passed. that’s one of the reasons she (a white southerner from suburban Richmond) voted for Kerry.
    She’s very pro-military, and almost joined when she graduted high school. But one reason she moved up to here to free state (as opposed to right-to -work Va.) was that there are more opportunties up north (so much for the theory that it was because of my good looks).
    Apparently, the two biggest employers in the south are the US government (no joke) and Wal-Mart.
    She worked for Wal-Mart for close to a year. She quit because
    1) She was paid less per hour than men with similar experience and education
    2) She was sexually harassed constantly by her supervisors
    3). She (along with other employees) were “locked in” late at night.
    4). The benefits (what few existed) were pathetic.
    5). Got sick of supervisors calling black workers “niggers.”
    6). Was not paid overtime pay
    7). Saw Hispanic workers get paid less than minimum wage (and get called “Spics.”
    8). Worked over 80 hours !!!! in a month that was “off the clock” i.e. she wasn’t paid one red cent for these hours.
    9). Made to do jobs she wasn’t qualified for.
    10). Was shown an anti-union video the first day (was almost fired for laughing at this (let’s face it) pathetic video. These folks hate unions more than liberals and progressives hate Osama Bin Laden.
    11). Boyfriend kicked out of Wal-Mart while attempting to shop there for expressing “bad values” (I was wearing a Beatles hat and a pro-union, SEIU t-shirt).
    The moral of this story is: Get an education, you DO NOT want to work for these HAYSEEDS. I’m not a violent person, I try to reason out every disagreement. But If I could have my way, I’d do these Wal-Mart bosses what Gene Hackman does to a racist sheriff in the movie “Mississippi Burning.” If you have not seen this movie, please do so. Its as dramatic as Chevy Chase is funny.

  4. Nick says:

    Anonymous was me, Nick.

  5. Nick,

    Wow. WalMart Sucks!

  6. Nick says:

    As a teacher, I tell my students about some of the crap that Wal-Mart pulls. Its a very good motivator for students to do better. “Hey do you want an education, or do you wanna work at Wal-Mart?” Most students, understandably, choose the former.

  7. Nick

    What do you teach?

  8. Nick says:

    I teach US History to 9th and 11th graders and some years I also teach government. The kids (predominantly black and Hispanic) I teach are in PG County Maryland, at a decent school. Still, as PG has become more like the 9th ward of Washington DC it has taken on a number of the problems of DC schools, though usually not as bad.
    What sucks is the TRIM Amendment. Passed in the late 1970s, it severly limited the growth of the property and other local taxes that pay for education (kinda like what Proposition 13 did in California). PG is the only county to pass anything like TRIM, which is odd given how Demcoratic a county it is. Even the right wing counties on MD’s eastern shore never did this, even in the high inflation mid-late 1970s.

  9. Nick

    My daughter just started 11th grade. She loves history.

    Her high school here in the L.A. area has 4700 students. They are on track schedule wtih 3 tracks to accomodate all the students in this school with 129 classrooms.

    I’ll bet your students really enjoy your class.

  10. Ginny in CO says:


    My kids learned and enjoyed one history teacher in high school more than any other in K-12

    Given your combination of History and government, I have to bring up my pet theory on comabating voter ignorance & apathy. (Remember the PIPA report?)

    #1 We need a refresher course in American Government for voters. I think a lot of them are overwhelmed by the compexity ( which it is) and don’t know where to start figuring it out.
    Don’t know how or who to best do this.

    #2 We need JOB Descriptions for offices. Remember Bill Clinton commenting that running for office was like a long job interview? And too many of the people interviewing don’t really
    understand what the job is; what skills, experience, knowledge base, etc are needed to do the job.

    I like Lakoffs linguistic input into changing the discussion. I also think we need to change the whole way voters think about the “job” and what our candidates need to present as their resume.

    One of the things the GOP has really over done is belittle, degrade and generally badmouth government workers. I find this really stupid. The #1 reason nurses leave health care is because of the way Drs treat them. Do we really want to treat our public servants like this?
    Do we really expect to keep attracting bright , dedicated citizens to this kind of job environment? (Same is true for the people running for office)

    Well. I think it’s almost cool enough to go get some zzz

  11. Nick says:


    I’ve had a number of students say they enjoy it, so I think I’m on the right track. Yes students have to know basic unsexy things like “Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941.” The key is too avoid making history just a litany of facts and dates. If a history teacher can make it more lively than that, make a historical point in time relate to the present somehow, then history can be far more interesting.
    a lot of good points. I think the glorificaiton of business that we’ve seen since Reagan in the 1980s has played a big part in the poor treatment of public servants, be they teachers, nurses, folks who run for office, etc.
    I’m no socialist, but the hyper-competitive, bottom line thinking, combined a with a large libertarian streak on economics, inevitably leads to the degredation of public servants. After all, taxpayers who want “their” money back in tax cuts aren’t gonna care much about education. They may say they do, but if we think America is just a collection of individuals, rather than a community, it makes the job of those who would help the community all the more difficult.

  12. blue (not nec D) in a red(neck) state says:

    I am a Spanish instructor at a liberal arts college smack in the middle of the Redneck Zone. A big part of the problem that I see in higher ed has less to do with money and more with motivation. An awful lot of kids that are making it into college are doing so not because they genuinely value education, or see it as a way to avoid poverty, live a better life, or participate in their society in a meaningful way. They go to college to party and because Mom & Dad make them go.

    There is too much focus on the idea that a degree will keep you from having to work at WalMart, and not enough on the idea that being well educated is its own reward. This is especially true for me, as I am an adjunct (read: temporary employee, lousy pay, no benefits, not even decent job security) and thus I can only teach lower-level courses. The reality is that a great majority of my students are in my classes because they have to be to get a degree, not because they want to learn what I am supposed to teach them. All most of them want is to get a passing grade and never look back – who cares if they ever use what they were “forced” to learn. It doesn’t even cross their minds that learning Spanish has intrinsic value, beyond perhaps “looks good on a resume.”

    Yes, I want education to be affordable, but I also want more young people to understand WHY it is so important, and not just because it will keep you out of WallyWorld as a minimum-wage pee-on (pun intended).

    I think another key issue is about the rewards of teaching, or what few rewards are left any more. There are societies where educators are given the kind of salaries that show a commitment to, and respect for, truly good education. When teachers are valued, both in terms of money and in terms of respect, it is so much easier to make the whole system work as it should, because you can attract good teachers. Unfortunately the USA is not one of those places.

    I tell myself often that I should be proud to be an educator, to contribute to society and help shape young minds to be good citizens, that the joy of seeing kids learn is more important than money or prestige. But joy doesn’t pay the mortgage. A big part of why our system is so messed up is because the people who are smart, articulate, thoughtful don’t want to be educators. They want to get MBAs so they can be managers at WallyWorld or get PoliSci degrees so they can join the Washington rape squads and scrabble for their chunk of the Public Tax Dollar Pie.