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TB Rising tuition jeopardizes America's stability

Spring is approaching fast, and so is the graduation of a new batch of high school seniors. Much of their concern and energy is being spent agonizing over the details of college, and more specifically the cost of higher education. Not only are tuition prices astronomical, but they are expected to grow larger still in the next year.

Unfortunately, the federal aid pool is shrinking as well. This sets the stage for a dangerously exclusive higher education system in America that could potentially widen further the gap between low income citizens and the wealthiest Americans.

The greatest preserver of democracy is an accessible education system in which any qualified student may advance as far as their abilities will allow them. In a system which requires students to be of a certain class or category in order to participate, inequalities are inherent. Wealthy Americans are predominately white, and the larger portion of college-bound students is as well. This racial disparity is perpetuated in part due to social factors, but also because many lower class families cannot afford to send their children to higher education institutions.

Scholarships from non-governmental institutions can be helpful in reducing college costs. However, it is very difficult to accumulate large enough sums to eliminate the price of prestigious colleges. And for many middle class families who do not classify as receivers of hefty federal grants, good colleges are still too expensive without considerable loans.

The debt caused by massive loans restricts each student's possibilities during and after college. Quality of life, job possibilities and unprofitable talent are all sacrificed by these young adults who are about to join the work force in earnest. The entire community suffers from the loss of the capability that accompanies financial freedom, as well as the loss of creativity and risk taking abilities. Students with gargantuan debt to pay off are chained to money. They cannot pursue a career that may turn out to be unprofitable, and therefore cannot explore and invent.

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Effective business, art and politics all require creativity and sacrifice. If we produce a generation characterized by young adults who can't afford college and struggling graduates who have no choice but to work for money they can't keep, the quality of life for Americans will drop.

Both lower and middle class students are feeling the burn of college debt. But those high school graduates who are fortunate enough to have been born to wealthy parents have less to worry about. If college costs keep rising, these students may be the only ones receiving degrees. Once again the right to higher education will be demoted to a privilege for those who can afford it, and the rich elite will reign.

What exactly would this mean for our society? The word freedom is meaningless as long as lower class citizens are incapable of breaking the cycle that restricts them to low paying menial jobs because college is nearly a fantasy. It is meaningless as long as one category of people alone have open access to the opportunity that allows them to maintain their place at the top of the hierarchy.

Such a system works precisely like the totalitarian monarchies Americans originally sought to escape, and negates any hope we could possibly nourish of America remaining a democracy. Higher education in America is certainly worth the investment.

Kirin Furst is a senior at John Marshall High School. To respond to an opinion column, send an e-mail to teenbeat@postbulletin.com.

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