To Be Or Not to Be... Free

To Be Or Not to Be... Free

College tuition is expensive... but does that mean that higher education should just be made free?
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I’m all for free speech, free vacations, and free doughnuts (when applicable). But free college education, not so much.

While the idealistic notion of a free college education sounds amazing, the question of the origin of the funds is a difficult one. While it would be amazing for some of the money to come from non-profits such as Hillary Clinton’s SPARK program, much of it would likely be financed by taxpayer dollars. In my hometown, we’ve only had a public high school for 10 years— simply because many people (particularly the elderly) in our town did not want an increase in their taxes for an education that they felt would not be directly benefitting them. Given this, I know that convincing Americans, many of whom already struggle enough with paying their taxes, that a tax increase is worthwhile would be extremely difficult, to say the least.

Additionally, one of the biggest problems with a free college education is the reduction in academic competition to get a college education. It would allow people who might not have the greatest desire to go to college or to fully utilize a college education to go, perhaps just for the partying or the food. It would cause students who work tremendously hard in high school for college scholarships to not have to push themselves as hard because they will know that they can simply go to college for free.

Furthermore, many low-income students are given scholarship money from the federal government and other sources while higher income students receive considerably less (if any) financial need-based aid. Therefore, should college education be free for all students, it would technically benefit the wealthier more than the poorer in terms of the amount of additional money given towards each student’s college education.

Yet I suppose my biggest problem with the “free college” movement is our definition of free. Where do we draw the line between academic expenses and the amenities that colleges provide: the concerts, presidential debates (go WashU!), and guest speakers? Would colleges have to sacrifice some of the amenities if they all reduced the cost of education and received less money from students? Plus, there’s also room and board… if that’s not included in the free college money from taxpayers, then students might still graduate in debt. For example, in Sweden, over 85% of students graduated with student loan debt in 2013 for room and board due to the high cost of living there. And what about grad school? Would that be free, too? Or is grad school more of an amenity than a necessity in terms of getting a good post-graduation job. The questions abound.

Also, the distinction would have to be made about which colleges are free. If solely public schools were free, then the subsidization of the education might not be a drastic change for the students, especially if they’re already receiving in-state tuition and scholarships.

So what’s my solution? College is ridiculously expensive and I can certainly concede that the price tag can be incredibly burdensome, to say the least, for many students and their families.

It astounds me that not only is the US cost of higher education greater than in any other country; the quality of the education is not even the best internationally. We’re currently ranked 12th in the world for our young adults with a college education. So why aren’t we getting the optimal cost return on our education if we’re paying the most?

For this, we have to examine a bit of U.S. history. In the mid-1900s, the cost of college education in the US used to be comparatively low in relation to today. In an AlterNet article about the rapid increase in college tuition, the author reflects upon the cost of his education, citing that his yearly UChicago tuition starting in 1958 was $870 (worth $7,130 in 2016). He describes about how from the late 1950s until the mid-1980s, tuition only rose gradually, though by the mid-1980s, it escalated dramatically. He attributes the increased demand to the notion that a college education equates to increased power and wealth, and the rapid cost increase to the immediate need for colleges to expand to accommodate all of the new students. After decades of federal and state budget cuts and a rise in elitism, particularly with private universities, the US college costs have ended up being dramatically higher than those from colleges in other nations.

I suppose this has made me question if what we want is not a free education, but an education that has a more reasonable cost, like it did only decades ago. Is what we want an increase in taxes and an elimination of the college price tag or do we just want a lower cost, comparable to that of equally developed nations?

Simply from a logistical standpoint, creating a society where there can be free college is nearly unattainable, at least in the sense of making the education completely free with no cost for room, board, classes, books, amenities, any of it. And giving all students a free college education would reduce or eliminate competition for scholarships (since they would not be needed) and allow students who are not fully committed to a college education to attend. Yet what lies in the ambiguous definition of free education is a spirit which cannot be ignored, a rage against the ridiculous tuition numbers faced by students in our country and ours alone. It is a yearning to be free from the shackles of financial status and to learn and grow through an integral part of the 21st century in particular, higher education. Because higher education IS becoming increasingly necessary in the Digital Age (we are not all farmers, bum ba dum pum bum bum bum), and we must make the distinction between amenity and necessity.

To me, my college tuition is like a golf ball on the last hole of a mini golf course. I hit the golf ball, the (creepy) clown’s mouth swallows it up, and while I benefit from the great mini golf experience, I ultimately don’t get to see my golf ball’s final destination. At college, I get to enjoy the concerts and presidential debates and “free” metro pass, but aside from the physical events that the university puts on for its students and the costs of paying for teachers, property, and appliances on the property (mowing the lawn, lights, etc) I really don’t get to see where my money is going. Since I know that the university has a massive endowment, I would love to learn exactly how much of my money is being used on things that directly benefit and are worthwhile to me.

So while college education shouldn’t be free, a reduction in tuition would definitely be a beneficial measure. If college could be priced similarly to other nations across the world, if we knew exactly where our money was going and why, and questioned the system and the history that has led us to this point, we’d be able to better consider making changes to it. Because the dire fate of college tuition seems to be further escalation to the point of insanity, and it’s definitely not okay. While I am no politician, a change I’d like to see is a measure that limits private universities’ abilities to increase tuition faster than US price inflation and see where that takes us. I’d also like to see more NGO welfare programs for those struggling with debt. But most of all, I’d like to see more discussion on the issue. Not just rhetoric, but actual examination of the history of college tuition and of international college tuitions because that’s how we can better shape the future. Maybe college isn’t meant to be free, but it’s certainly meant to be reasonably affordable for you and me.
Cover Image Credit: followmyvote.com

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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.
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Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?

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This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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