College should not be out of grasp for low-income students

It was sometime last Thursday when I had received the news that my alma mater, Central Michigan University had proudly announced it was raising undergraduate tuition by a only a mere 1.96 percent.

I then read the news article where CMU President George Ross and his team of cronies on the university’s Board of Trustees were smugly bragging about the modest increase.

Yes, the school that has some $250 million in unrestricted funds, that is building a medical college nobody at the university other than his cronies wants, used $10 million of tuition dollars to pay for a basketball arena that’s named after a slumlord which they said would be privately funded and has the fourth highest tuition in the state; was again raising tuition.

This is not a column about the inner working of CMU or the poor job that George Ross is doing because honestly I doubt that anybody cares about that in Lake County.

This is about what is more and more becoming an unacheivable goal for today’s high school students and that a university education is soon becoming a privledge for the financial “have’s” in society and the “have not’s” are clearly being left behind.

CMU is just an example of a problem that is becoming a recurring theme around the state and nation.

Tuition for an incoming freshman will be a staggering $365 per credit hour in the fall of 2012, an increase of 237 percent since the 2000-01 school year when tuition was $108.15 per credit hour.

More and more, four-year universities are becoming a pipe dream to students from low-income families or only attainable if you want to rack up thousands of dollars of student loans.

According to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, student loan debt in this country has ballooned to over $1 trillion.

Like many of my classmates in college, I had to amass tens of thousands of student loan debt to pursue my education.

We all did this knowingly and nobody forced us to take out these loans.

Only, we kind of had no choice.

From the first day of kindergarten to the last day of high school, every educator hammers home just how important a college education is and how you must excel in high school so you can get into college.

After all, gone are the days where you could land a job with one of the “Big Three” motor companies out of high school, work for 30 years in a union job and retire with a great pension and a gold watch.

Even for students at Baldwin High School who are receipients of the Baldwin Promise can only expect the $5,000 grant to cover a semester of college per year and that’s before figuring in room, board, meals and other expenses such as textbooks.

It is morally wrong that a college education is starting to become a luxury that only the wealthy can afford.

While watching the ridiculous sideshow that was the race for the Republican nomination for president and watch them bicker over non-issues such as contraception, being a “real conservative” and Newt Gingrich’s ever growing list of infidelities, not one of them ever mentioned a solution to make college more affordable.

While I may not agree with many of his policies, I will at least applaud President Obama for trying to do something about it. In February, Obama issued an executive order capping repayment on student loans at 20 years and 10 percent of disposable income.

And then there’s U.S. Rep. Hansen Clark a Democrat that represents Detroit who has introduced the “Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, which would forgive student loans after for those who have made payments on-time for 10 years, cap interest rates at current levels and forgive loans for those who become teachers or practice medicine after medicine in underprivledged areas after five years.

Again, the only thing I will ever likely give Hansen Clarke credit for is that he took the congressional seat of Kwame Kilpatrick’s mother, but at least he’s trying to solve a problem.

Society cannot have it both ways. They cannot hammer home the importance of a college education for 13 years and then have a year at a state school such as CMU cost $15,000.

It is not right, it is not fair and it is definitely not moral.