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Student criticizes Occupy URI, stresses tuition as investment

Published: Monday, March 5, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 10:03


To the Cigar,

Last Thursday, there was a movement on our Quadrangle know as Occupy URI. The point of the movement was to point out that tuition costs are rising and that many students are coming out of college with more debt than they can handle.

Occupy URI joined up with the "No Cuts, No Compromises" (NCNC) petition which blames banks and corporations for putting students into too much debt when they graduate.

NCNC's introduction starts with the following: "Do you know how much of what you will ultimately pay for your student loan will go toward education and how much will end up lining the pockets of financial institutions that contribute nothing to education?"

Maybe what the occupiers fail to understand is that without these financial institutions, thousands of students would not be able to afford higher education. Yes, you have to pay interest, but it's the interest you pay that allows these institutions to stay in business and continue to give out loans to students in need.

But what about all of the students over their heads in debt? They should think about how they got there. They selected their school and their major. No one forced them to pick a college that they cannot afford.

Unfortunately, many Americans cannot afford private institutions, but that is why state schools, along with community colleges and technical schools, have been established. Many schools are available for much lower costs so that students do not have to take out massive loans.

College is an investment. You are attending college as a young man or woman to gain a marketable skill to ultimately get a job after graduation. If you waste years of school undecided about your major or graduate without a good degree, you will not get return on your investment. It's just like investing in a stock. You might invest in Google because you think that in four years you can make money off of it. Same goes for college. In four years, you should be able to turn those thousands of education-invested dollars into a well paying job.

Occupy URI also points out that tuition should be lowered. I would personally love to not have to pay as much as I do now, but this is not the way to bring about change. In 2008-09, the state of Rhode Island funded 15.5 percent of URI's revenue. It is now somewhere in-between 8-11 percent.

URI receives very little from the state government, making us practically a private institution. But because we are not a private institution, federal funding comes with red-tape. URI cannot simply lower tuition. We must receive approval for many of our cuts and budgets through the state government. This means that it would be wiser to protest in front of the statehouse in Providence, rather than the university itself.

I was incredibly disappointed in the movement when I posted on the official Occupy URI Facebook page. I pointed out that some of their arguments may be flawed. Instead of a healthy debate, I found that my comments and posts were immediately deleted. I thought that the whole point of Occupy was to hear "the 99 percent." It doesn't seem very democratic of the group to delete comments and posts of anyone with different views.



Ben Bernstein

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Paul Combetta
Wed Mar 7 2012 11:18
Not to mention, we've completely destroyed our unionized labor base in this country, so the possibility to get a well-paying job that doesn't require a college education are very few and far between.
Tue Mar 6 2012 22:13
If you select your major carefully enough, you can enter a field where jobs are available. Graduating with a liberal arts degree is not going to help you find a job. And if you work hard in high school, there are thousands of scholarship opportunities. So even if you grow up in poverty, if you work hard, you can get federal funding for school as well as grants and scholarships from the school of your choice and 3rd party companies/organizations. Don't go to a college that you cannot afford. Start off in community college if you must, work hard, and get scholarships and grants to lower school costs. It is an insult to the working men and women of America who payed off their debt with their own hard earned cash, to say that its America's responsibility to pay off an individual's loan. That's socialist
Tue Mar 6 2012 20:38
While we do need a serious discussion about issues like this one, there is a pathetic wing of the "Occupy" movement unable and unwilling to participate in it. To your point, yes college is an investment, but it's also, in today's age, an almost required condition for high-income job attainment. So the constant rise of tuition is not just a harmless market fluctuation, it has serious implications for social justice and economic mobility.

But to Occupy URI - a large portion of loans are issued by the government these days, not just the infamous financial institutions. Additionally, colleges need to be accountable for their tuitions as well. I feel like President Obama's attitude towards the tuition problem is a lot more level headed than the self-interested suggestions out of the AAUP and the reactionary, juvenile ones out of some from Occupy.

Paul Combetta
Tue Mar 6 2012 20:31
"In four years, you should be able to turn those thousands of education-invested dollars into a well paying job." - This statement is pretty much the crux of the problem of your argument. It SHOULD be this way, but it isn't. Just like we SHOULD be all able to live the American Dream, but many can't, even after working hard for it.

While tuition costs have skyrocketed in the last ten years (nearly doubling in some cases - National Center for Education Statistics), job opportunities have decreased due to the economy, outsourcing, and the like. It is a critical matter of our national interest/future/economy to be able to produce college-educated people, and introduce them into the workforce.

Almost all of the issues surrounding higher education can be at least partly addressed via our public policy, from providing more money to centers of higher learning, to adjusting laws related to outsourcing and visa policy. When you have boards and investors insisting that a corporation outsource thousands of jobs overseas to increase stock dividends by a few percentage points, it hurts all of us. Burdening our college graduates with tens and tens and TENS of thousands of dollars of debt right out of the gate as they enter the workforce is akin to investing years of time and effort into a thoroughbred racehorse, only to hobble it as it begins it's big race.

As for community colleges and technical schools, they have their place and fulfill a very important role. However, prospective students shouldn't have their education (which leads to career, and ultimately a very large part of the path their life takes) decisions based almost wholly on financial factors. If a student demonstrates excellence and proves that they can work hard, we should be working our hardest to find ways to support and encourage these students, without putting a yoke around their next for the next two or more decades of their life.

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