Civic Responsibility and Higher Education

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” — Nelson Mandela

            Education is the essential of living; it guides us towards a better future, teaches us how to differentiate between good and evil. People should be encouraged to pursue higher education, rather than government raising tuition cost and interest rates every year to break students’ necks. Come to think of it, by encouraging young generation towards better education will help increase the literacy rate within the country. Not only that, it will bring awareness towards the social issues, also guide them to work together for their proper solutions. People will learn to make sensible decisions, which will eventually help to improve our country economically. Unfortunately the students trying to pursue their goals have their way hindered by increasing tuition fee and loans with high interest rates, which force them to either drop their goals or revise the options they have. This is how it’s affecting the lives of the current and prospective college students. In simple words, higher education means higher debt.

Higher Education = Higher Debt

            To afford the education many students have to take out the student loans (Public and private loans with fixed and unfixed interest rates) because there is not enough financial support available to them such as grants and scholarships. Thus, that is the reason many students after High School don’t pursue higher education, instead take full time job to support themselves and their families, which is the most common drawback in our society today. Education is indeed a basic right of every individual and our government should make every effort to free education at least till bachelor’s degree in any major to support our future generation. After comparing the first year tuition rate of different universities within United States the average cost of tuition for first year begins at $26,000, which changes depending on the major and the progress of the student from first year to the next.  

01Picture credit: usnews.com, “The Bright Side of Higher College Tuition”

According to dictionary, civic responsibilities are “the responsibilities of a citizen”. Thus, it can also be described as communicating or representing organization intensions, public activities to bring awareness towards social, political and educational issues. As a developing leader, it is important for us to get involved in such activities to support our community. For a leader it is important to behave in an honest, ethical, and moral manner in order to help gain the respect of those that you lead.  Fulfilling your civic responsibilities is just one way in which a leader can demonstrate their honesty, ethics, and altruism. There are many issues in our society that needed to be addressed by every individual. One of the main issues that I think is very vital and needs attention, is the crisis in the higher education. Every year there has been increase in tuition cost as well as in interest rate on student loans. Which eventually become burdens on the students, because there are not many high paid jobs available for newly graduated students. Majority of the open positions, right after graduation are either unpaid internship, volunteering, or part-time with minimum wages. Even after working 40+ hours a week, it only covers rent and bills but still not enough to cover loan payments. High tuition and interest rates are discouraging the future generation to pursue higher education. The Higher tuition and interest rates with low income are making it hard for students to survive with bad credits.

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Today, the higher education faces an acute crisis of resources, organization, with lack of funding. Colleges and universities are bound in between external (economic) and other internal (existential) issues. We are living in an age of economic limits, fractured politics, and stalemated government with an intense personal fear. There have been a constant dispute, and competition, going on in which neither side are gaining any advantage. Public tolerance is weakening for increasing tuition as legislative appropriations shrink and student debt continues to grow. Students are graduating every year with crushing debt burdens, and there are no positive responses from the potential employers. As they are telling the students that they are not prepared for the work place, due to lack of experience with in the field. Another interesting fact that I have discovered from my own personal experience is that most of the high paid companies and corporate firms look for experienced individuals even for an entry-level position, which makes it harder for students to find a job right after graduation at their dream company.

03

Education is one of the most important aspect of one’s life, but as the world is advancing into new era of science and technology, the increasing cost of tuition is not only leading to an increase in number of drop out students from universities but also leading to an increase in ratio of low income families. Due to unemployment and economic crisis with in the country, many youngsters are suffering from symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and phobia.

04

According to the article, “ Democracy in the classroom” the evolving models of higher education system are doing very little to help society address the growing apathy, frustration, isolation, and distrust among high school and college students. The main challenge for people in higher education is to help restore the civic democratic mission of the academy. The global/economic crisis with internal challenges within colleges and universities has given birth to the most fundamental crisis of the century. It is a crisis of acceptability as well as one of the political economy of higher education. “In New York City alone 1.6 million people have fallen below the poverty line, roughly 20 percent of its population”. (Huffington Post) The economy has been falling downwards to high unemployment rate, low-income inequality, the shrinking of the social safety net and the despairing opportunities and ultimately no hope for a better future. Today, Education system is the leading and one of the most profitable businesses in our society. According to an article on USAToday.com, “The average tuition at a four-year public university climbed 15% between 2008 and 2010, fueled by state budget cuts for higher education and increases of 40% and more at universities in states like Georgia, Arizona and California where the net prices for some schools are now twice as high as Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Pen State etc.

On the other hand, there are 5 Universities in US that give education for free, such as College of the Ozarks, US Coast Guard Academy, Webb Institute, MaCaulay Honor College, and Barclay. Who provide not only free education to students but also prepare them for career? All the students accepted in those universities also work as a faculty and pay for their tuition while working in the university. There are many other people who are supporting education within our society. Recently Mark Zuckerberg has announced a donation of $120 million to San Francisco Bay Area Schools to help improve the school system and education. According to the article, Zuckerberg and Chan stated “The world’s most innovative community shouldn’t also be a home for struggling public schools” Also; Kenneth C. Griffin who graduated from Harvard University in 1989 recently donated $150 million to Harvard University to support the students studying at Harvard.

We need people such as Kenneth C. Griffin and Mark Zuckerberg in our society today to promote the fundamentals of education that will help our economy as well as bring awareness among youth for a better lifestyle. I have conducted an online survey among my peers to identify the wide spreading problem in our society because of high tuition cost with rising interest rates. In my survey most of the students are between the ages of 21 to 25 and some of them are in their 40s, working fulltime and freelance positions. Among all the people who participated in my survey 40% of the students owe more than $40,000+ in student loans. Which means with the payment of $50.00 per month for 5 years they will only able to pay $3000, which does not include any interest payment. In reality when we make a payment banks take off the interest first and the remaining balance is considered the token from the entire balance.

05 06

Annual Income Vs. Student Loan Amount

According to article on Forbes.com written by John Ebersole who is a President of Excelsior College, There are few major problems with our current education system.

  1. Cost: There is a major increase in cost over the past five years for public institutions, which has forced universities to increase the cost of tuitions. The highest increase seen in public college and universities were where 75% of the students enrolled fulltime.
  2. Renewal of Higher Education Act: which was started by the congress in the year of 2013 to do in-depth work of shaping and testing new policies and regulations in educational system, which according to the article will pick up steam in 2014. At this point, there is no mutual agreement among the congressmen and thus its purpose is lacking.
  3. Workforce Development: Employers are focusing on hiring experienced and skilled labor which gives little to no chance to recently graduated student to get accepted at their dream company, which is discouraging for students and they start to lose faith within themselves. Though employers today are focusing on hiring individuals with higher education but they still prefer experience over education especially for new grads.
  4. Competency-based education (CBE): which is defined as “An educational approach based on a predetermined set of knowledge, skills, and abilities that the student is expected to accomplish”. It is considered the next big thing according to Inside Higher ED. With the help of media many colleges and universities are getting influenced by CBE. “Competency”, is a way to measure or understand what can actually be done with a degree attained from different universities and employer can base your evaluation from your school image instead of your actual skill levels.
  5. Accreditation: According to the article, Top Issues facing higher education in 2014 “ Accreditation has become the “piñata”[1] of both the political and policy communities.” It is a method of quality assurance developed by American Universities to distinguish educational standards.
  6. Assessment: It is one of the major concerns for higher education. Learning outcome-assessment is becoming the basis to determine institutional effectiveness.
  7. The economy: though economy is gaining its strength back and employment rate is once again improving. Student recruiting is becoming more difficult as the author has stated that “as a result of improved economic activity and because of the political perspective that marketing is not an acceptable use of funds generated under Title IV”[2].

07

      True and a bitter reality of our society, is that despite the fact students are suffering from loan payments our government is paying little to no attention towards this dilemma. Unfortunately, in the world of business you can always find someone to replace another. That is why many US companies are approaching foreign countries to hire a suitable employee for their organization because they are unable to search one with in US boundaries, companies such as Ernst and Young, KPMG, Deloittle, Microsoft and many more are looking for students who are majored in Business, Computer Science, Biology, and Accounting etc. to hire them as employees. Thus this gives students based in United States a little chance to extend their educational and professional experience and to work for major US companies. By encouraging students towards higher education will open more job opportunities for Americans. Our government will focus on employing US citizens rather than hiring people from other countries. There are many job opportunities available for Science and Commerce students but there are not many graduates to take advantage from these opportunities.

08

Luckily President Obama just introduced a new repayment plan for students “Pay As You Earn”, which allow students to pay only 10% from their paycheck towards student loan and remaining payment after 20 years will be forgiven by government. Though PAYE plan gives student two years longer to pay off their loan with small payments but in the end the borrower would pay more interest than the standard plan. But it does seems like this plan will help newly grads to stabilize in their initial loan payments and also help them settle down without any anxiety.

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There are many interesting facts that I have learned from my research on Civic responsibility and Higher Education

  • The economy has been falling downwards to high unemployment rate, low-income inequality, the shrinking of the social safety net and the despairing opportunities and ultimately no hope for a better future.
  • There are few people such as Kenneth C. Griffin and Mark Zuckerberg who are donating millions for the sake of education.
  • Due to high rate of drop out student from University, Every year US hire people from different countries specifically majored in Science and Commerce to work for US government.
  • Education is one of the most successful businesses in the world. People are only investing in education to earn money for their own sake.
  • The political and economic issues with n our country are one of the reasons \ leading to High interest rate.
  • There are people in the world who cant afford elementary, middle, and high school education and that has led to global problems such as child labor. (“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think” Margaret Mead)

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.” ― Nelson Mandela

[1] piñata a decorated figure of an animal containing toys and candy that is suspended from a height and broken open by blindfolded children as part of a celebration.

[2] The aid offered by the government comes in the forms of grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. The Department of Education provides Drexel with the funds for all eligible students and requires that the university distribute the aid based upon the criteria the Title IV law has established.

 

Bibliography

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  • Chatan, Tarrell. “Tuition Comparison Site: The High Price Of College.” Education Search by Noodle. 20 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 May 2014.
  • https://www.collegeincolorado.org/College_Planning/Explore_Schools/Compare_Schools/Compare_Schools.aspx
  • FRIEDMAN, DAN. “Americans Owe $1.2 Trillion in Student Loans, Surpassing Credit Card and Auto Loan Debt Totals.” NY Daily News. 17 May 2014. Web. 20 May 2014.
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  • Mencimer, Stephanie. “Why Won’t the Obama Administration Disclose How It Pays Student Loan Debt Collectors?” Mother Jones. Web. 20 May 2014.
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  • Guarasci, Richard. “The Crisis In Higher Education: How Civic Engagement Can Save Higher Education (Part I).” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 June 2012. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.
  • Ketcham, Ralph. “A rationale for civic education: preparing for democracy.” Current 347 (1992): 10+. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.
  • McBride, Amanda Moore. “Civic Engagement and Higher Education at a Crossroads.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 05 Nov. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.
  • Armario, Christine. “Average Cost of Four-year University up 15%.” USATODAY.COM. N.p., 13 Jan. 2012. Web. 30 May 2014.
  • Slavov, Sita, and Ben Ho. “The Bright Side of Higher College Tuition.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 20 Mar. 2014. Web. 01 June 2014.
  • Couch, Christina. “5 US Colleges You Can Attend For Free.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 24 May 2014. Web. 01 June 2014.
  • CLARIDA, MATTHEW Q., and AMNA H. HASHMI. “Griffin ’89 Gives $150 Million to Harvard, Largest Gift in College’s History |News | The Harvard Crimson.” Griffin ’89 Gives $150 Million to Harvard, Largest Gift in College’s History | News | The Harvard Crimson. The Harvard Crimson, 19 Feb. 2014. Web. 01 June 2014.
  • Dolan, Kerry A. “Mark Zuckerberg Announces New $120 M Gift To San Francisco Bay Area Schools.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 30 May 2014. Web. 01 June 2014.
  • Fain, Paul. “Lumina-funded Group Seeks to Lead Conversation on Competency-based Education @insidehighered.” Lumina-funded Group Seeks to Lead Conversation on Competency-based Education @insidehighered. Inside Higher ED, 12 Dec. 2013. Web. 01 June 2014.
  • Ebersole, John. “Top Issues Facing Higher Education In 2014.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 13 Jan. 2014. Web. 02 June 2014.
  • Jacobs, Peter. “Here’s How To Determine If You’re Eligible For Obama’s New Student Loan Repayment Plan.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 09 June 2014. Web. 15 June 2014.
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