28 September 2013
College is a place where students go to truly discover what is right for them and what they really want to do in life. It is a place where students find themselves and realize their true potential and talents. Not only that it is a place where some long lasting relationships are made and some of life’s greatest learning experiences occur. Everyone wants their college experience to be perfect because once it has passed it will never come back, and you want to be able to look back later on in life and say that you truly experienced everything you wanted in college. In todays day and age however this is far from the truth and students are lucky if they ever get to experience half of what they want. College now is becoming not a place to find yourself but a place to find a solution to your number one problem, debt. Unless you are one of the lucky ones that have the luxury of paying out of the pocket and therefore accumulating no debt chances are that paying off your debt is a major problem. Higher education now is in the process of making a huge shift, one that is moving away from being a public good that can be seen as benefitting the society through a more intellectual and educated workforce to a privatized institution benefitting and filling the pockets of only the individuals involved. This shift is affecting many people but the ones who are the most affected are the students attending these big universities to get the best education possible. From the second they make their decision to attend the school of their choice they are falling into a trap that will not let them go for a very long time. Most students are not even aware of how deep in the mud they really are until after they graduate and for the ones that do know get overwhelmed by the pressures of getting the best grades possible and finding a high paying job so that they can pay off the loans after they graduate. This pressure often times ends up being too much for students and their choices and decisions they make in college get negatively affected as a result of this.
Students nowadays are taking out more loans than ever and most of them don’t realize what they are getting themselves into. “Privatization suggests a movement away from public financing and toward private financing” (NEA, pg1). When students first take out a loan the thought of paying it off in the future seems like a distant idea so far away that there is no point in worrying about it and this is the mindset that gets students into trouble later on. “I’d known that I had debt, of course, and that I’d one day have to pay it off, but that day always seemed so far away, as if it would take place in a second lifetime or a far- fetched futuristic world with flying cars, robots, and universal health care” (Ilgunas, pg31). It seems far away but in reality it is very close because four years in college go by in a blink of an eye and before you know it the time will come to start paying off those loans and the majority of students will not be in a good position to pay them off and this will lead to the accumulation of more and more debt. “ I could boast of a B.A. in history and English from a respectable college, a couple of internships under my belt, not to mention a long history of employment. Who wouldn’t want to hire me? I’d failed to realize, though, that my credentials were identical to those of thousands of other job- seeking grads” (Ilgunas, pg34). This is a major issue for many job seeking grads because there is just so much competition in the job market that it is becoming harder and harder to find a good job. Everyone is stuck in the same situation and is looking for a way to get out.
More and more students are putting off grad school and jumping right into the job market right after they graduate because their debt if too high and this is why there is so much competition and struggle to find jobs and why more and more students just go deeper and deeper in debt. “But after one year- between second thoughts about grad school and worries about interest that was stealthily accruing on his loans (which had leaped to $58,000) – he dropped out of school to find work” (Ilgunas, pg37). This shows that the shift to privatization of higher education is not only drowning students in debt but is taking away the opportunity to continue with their education. Students are so afraid about their debt that they bypass on a graduate education. Not only does privatization have an effect on life after graduating but the effects it has while students are in school are much greater.
Students are just not getting the benefits from college that they need to be successful after they graduate and they are also not making the most of the college experience. This is all due to privatization and the hold it has on students. There is one thing that privatization creates that influences every decision a student makes in college and that is pressure. Having all this debt puts students in so much stress that they can’t focus on things that are crucial during the college experience such as building relationships and experiencing new things.
Students get so caught up in worrying about their debt that they miss out on the important aspects of a college education. “ I positioned myself in such a way that I can’t have a meaningful romantic relationship, because I’m always busy and the people that I am interested in are always busy, too” (Taylor, pg1). Relationships are important in college because they gives you a chance to experience different types of people but students now are too busy and stressed out to invest any time in relationships and this is hurting them in the long run. Also the relationships you build while in college can help you out after as well. For example if you need help with finding a job or need references it would be very helpful if a professor that you knew very well wrote a letter for you. But nowadays students are too busy and worried about all the other things in their life that they forget about these things. “ For A., college is an endless series of competitions: to get into student clubs, some of which demand multiple rounds of interviews; to be selected for special research projects and the choicest internships; and, in the end, to land the most elite job offers” (Taylor, pg3). Students just have too much on their plate nowadays and it has to do with the pressure to be the best so they can make money to pay off their debt. Even if they don’t talk about the debt it is always running through their mind.
Higher education is becoming more and more like a business that is finding ways to take money out of the pockets of students and draw them into a web of debt that will follow most students for a very long time. “ I’d heard of people who’d spent years, decades, their whole lives (!) paying off their debts, working eight hours a day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year, decades, lifetimes, epochs” (Ilgunas, pg37)! So not only is the privatization causing stress while students are in school but it also affects you after you have graduated and have nothing to do with school anymore. Even if you have a well established you still have to worry about the debt because the more you delay the more debt will accumulate. Also for the ones that don’t find a good job immediately after college it is even more of a nightmare because they have to work low class jobs to make their payments. “ More than 100,000 college graduates are janitors and 18,000 push carts. (There are 5,057 janitors in the United States who have doctorates and professional degrees!)” (Ilgunas, pg37) Coming into college most students do not know what they are getting themselves into because they believe that a job in the field that they are interested in is guaranteed and that they will be making enough money right when they graduate to pay off their loans, sadly though this is far from the truth. This is just what the people involved in this privatization process want you to believe so they can lure you into their trap.
Even though the privatization of higher education hurts students while they are in college and even after they leave the sad news is that it will continue to grow and will start growing at an even faster rate than it was before. The reason for this is quite simple, privatization of higher education brings in a lot of money and fills the pockets of those involved and as long as it is doing this it will not stop. Also the effects of this will be widespread and will have a significant impact on everyone involved in higher education. For example we will only see aspects of higher education that are profitable. “The functions of higher education are traditionally described as teaching, research, and service. Teaching is the only one of these functions that is universally profitable to college and universities. Consequently, the new providers in higher education will only be interested in teaching” (Levine, pg5). We might end up losing the research and service aspect of education because it does not bring in an adequate amount of money.
This will end up being a big blow for students because being involved in research is something many students are interested in and it helps them on their way to their careers. Another thing that might happen if privatization of higher education continues is that higher education will become more individualized. “ Instruction will be available anytime or anyplace. Students will be able to receive their education on a campus, in the office, at home, in the car or on a train, in a hotel, at a conference, or on a vacation” (Levine, pg6). Now although this may be very convenient for students who are on the go or want the luxury of leaning from home, it may alter the level of education that they receive. There will be so many suppliers of education that the quality of it may significantly drop so it may end up hurting students instead of helping them.
Students enter college thinking that they are going into this perfect place where they will have the best four years of their lives and will come out as better people with the careers that they have always wanted. They do not realize that higher education is not what it use to be, it is becoming less and less like a public good that will benefit society and more like a business whose sole purpose is to make profit. As soon as students decide to go to the college that they want they fall victim to the trap that privatization has created and a trap that will not let them go until many years after they have graduated. This is a process that has become more and more apparent in the past few years and one that will continue at an even faster rate in the years to come.