Education is the lifeblood of every country; it’s the engine that ensures continuity and progress. It’s where the younger generation is groomed to assume responsibility for the future. Without a properly educated young generation, the future of any country is at best uncertain.
In the United States, the future of education is grim. This is not surprising, considering the disinterest of the elected officials vis-à-vis education. Government Funding for Education in the country is constantly under attack, completely ignored, used as a battle ground field, crafted as a political tool or simply pushed way to the bottom of priorities.
Partisan bickering in Washington is at the center of the inaction in Congress regarding the doubling of the rates on student loans; meanwhile, the cost of education is soaring, government help is falling, causing the dropout rates to grow exponentially. This is no childish matter and its impact is far reaching and long lasting.
For the lucky students, they will complete their undergraduate degrees with at least a $35,000 billing statement handed to them along with the diploma. It would take well over a decade to pay off the bill for most; it would take the rest as long as two decades to get rid of that debt.
For the “unluckys” however, they will have to drop out; they too are handed a huge bill, a fraction of which is payable within 25 days of receipt and every month thereafter. It’s much harder for this group to repay the loan; the prospect of a good job is nothing but an elusive idea at best, a dream one might say.
An article published by the Christian Science Monitor on June 2012 featured four students who proudly graduated from College and walked into the streets of life with “tales from the crypt” as far as debt they have accumulated while in school.
Ann Marie Gorden graduated from Lasalle University in 2009 with a public relations degree and a bill amounting to $130,000. Ms. Gorden has to pay 8.5% interest on her loan. Now earning $45,000 a year, Ms. Gorden has to dish out $1,200 each month towards paying back the loan. If she makes regular payment without any interruption, she should finish paying back the loan in approximately ten years.
Aaron Marks graduated in Marketing from Carnegie Mellon University in 2012 with $191,000 in debt. [Mr. Marks was not surprised by the amount he owes. He wanted to get his degree from a reputable school that guarantees he would land a job soon after his graduation. Aaron must make regular payment to the tune of $1,300 each month for the next 30 years.]
Despite the “grim account” in the cases above, the featured individuals are the lucky ones; the dropouts could not make it that far. They were either no longer qualified to receive financial aid, did not receive enough or had other basic financial needs that required immediate attention and thus forced them out of school. For those less fortunate individuals, the future is also grim, perhaps grimmest: no degree, very pressing financial needs, a debt that is now due and no job or a can-barely-get-by type of job.
According to a December 2009 research by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 70% of the college dropouts receive no financial assistance whatsoever. Students dropped out, the study found, “not because they’re lazy or uninterested in higher learning—it’s because they need money for survival.” According to February 2011 Harvard study (Path to Prosperity), just over half (56%) of the students graduate with a bachelor degree, and it took them six years to reach that threshold. That percentage is even worst among those who enrolled in an associate degree program; a mere 29% graduated, and it took them three years.
Progress is very bleak and the ride to the future seems very rocky. US ranking in education on the world stage has been in a free fall in the past decade. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United States has fallen to “average” in international education rankings. A December 2010 article in the Huffington Post states that America has received scores around 500 on a scale that goes up to 1,000: 487 in math, 500 in reading and 502 in science.
This is alarming as the trend seems to continue at a much faster pace. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, US is ranked last among 18 countries that are tracked for uninterrupted degree completion; US is behind some of the youngest countries in the world, including Slovakia, the youngest country in Europe with just five million people that recently split from Czechoslovakia and became independent in February 1993.