north america / mexico |
opinion / analysis
Tuesday May 17, 2005 17:12 by Ella Powers and Hannah Leah - NAF - Northwest Anarchist Federation (USA/Canada)
A look at options for working class students in Oregan, USA
Increasingly, working class students are incurring lifelong debt because the alluring promise of upward mobility through education leads them to take out substantial loans to pay for their education. Quite often they are uninformed or misinformed when it comes to the nature of the financial obligation.
by Ella Powers and Hannah Leah
Increasingly, working class students are incurring lifelong debt
because the alluring promise of upward mobility through education
leads them to take out substantial loans to pay for their education.
Quite often they are uninformed or misinformed when it comes to the
nature of the financial obligation. Financial aid advisors assure
them that those with college degrees have higher incomes than those
who don't. Many students overestimate their earning potential after
college and do not understand the consequences of taking out
interest-bearing loans. Furthermore, they are easily enticed by
credit card companies that prey on them because, as inexperienced
consumers, their money management skills are often poor.
The Rising Cost of Tuition
The rising cost of tuition is one reason students are going into
debt. Last year tuition costs rose 14%. The average student graduates
with a minimum debt of $30,000. Pell Grants and state grant programs
have not kept pace with rising tuition costs. The economic recession
and Bush's tax cuts also contribute to the rising cost of tuition by
reducing funding. The result is higher tuition at a time when
families and students are least likely to be able to afford it. The
population of students whose parents make less than $100,000 per year
is markedly decreasing at state universities.
Faced with the rising cost of tuition, many are turning to
community college. More than half of the nation's undergraduates are
educated in community college. Open admissions, local access, and
reasonable tuition attract students from families with mid to lower
incomes. Other attractive qualities of community college campuses are
the diversity. They are comfortable places for all ages and types of
people and the average student age is 29. The average tuition is
$1,518 per year.
Unfortunately, 42% of community college funding comes from the
state government rather than the federal. The American Association of
Community Colleges reports, 'In state after state, community
colleges have seen their financing slashed as state and local
governments struggle to balance budgets. Cuts have reached the point
where the vital mission of the colleges is being dramatically
affected. Colleges are being forced to terminate programs, lay off
faculty, and eliminate essential student services.'
The funding crisis in community colleges mirrors the financial
problems plaguing public secondary, middle, and high schools.
Students are not offered the range of services and coursework that
was once available. This, along with the increasing costs of higher
education, leaves them unprepared and without resources for
What Are You Going to Be When You Grow Up?
Students should seriously consider the practicality of their
degree. In the U.S., creative/thinking fields, such as philosophy,
art, or literature, do not carry the same value as science, medicine,
or computer technology. Though it is not fair for working class
students to be discouraged from pursuing liberal art degrees, some
consideration is advised for those taking out loans that must be paid
back. It is important to think about what you are going to do with
your degree and whether the earning potential balances with the debt
Academic programs are often insulated from the reality of working
for a living, which affects how they plan programs. If you are from a
wealthy family with good job connections and benefactors, it is
likely that your loans will be paid quickly. If not, you could be
paralyzed and unable to get ahead while you work to simply get out of
How To Get By
To reduce school costs apply for scholarships and grants, consider
attending a community college or state university (they are still
cheaper than private schools), work while attending school part-time
(it may take longer, but you will save on student loan interest),
live with your parents (it may not be fun but it will decrease
monthly expenses). One option is to work for UPS. They will pay for
part of your college education and you can experience being in a
In order to develop money management skills, read books on how to
cut costs and manage your money before you set out on your own. If
you must take out a loan, Federal Subsidized Stafford Loans are your
best bet. They are based on a student's financial need and year in
school. While a student is enrolled in school, and for a six-month
grace period after leaving school, no payments on the loan are due
and the federal government pays all accrued interest on the loans.
You may consider alternatives to college such as coop programs and
apprenticeships in trades; carpentry and ironwork are popular
options. Job Corp is an option for those wanting to finish high
school and obtain a trade.
Follow Your Dreams, Not Your Debt
Many people are finding themselves in their 30's and 40's, with
student debt and credit card debt that is accruing interest and
keeping them financially paralyzed unable to save or plan for the
future. Do the research before signing up for loans or credit cards.
Don't find yourself in a post- graduation reality of debt and
inadequate hourly wages. In other words: follow your dreams with your
'The Debt-Free Graduate: How to Survive College Without going Broke'
by Murray Baker.
(websites) Visit The National Commission for Cooperative Education
website at www.co-op.edu.
For a complete list of trades in Oregon go to www.boli.state.or.us.
(phone numbers) to find out more about Job Corp call 1-800-733-JOBS.
From Firebrand No 3
To view the paper online, go to
download the PDF version from
Firebrand is a publication of the Firebrand Collective, a member
collective of the Northwest Anarchist Federation.