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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    College education should be valued

    President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address tackled the issue of rising tuition costs on Tuesday night. Obama emphasized the value of Americans attending and graduating from a college or university. The president praised the success of American universities but also scolded them for continuously increasing the cost of tuition. He challenged them to lower the tuition cost so that all Americans can have the opportunity to pursue higher education.

    The rising cost of tuition has not only made it harder for some Americans to graduate; it has completely shut the door on others. An analysis by the Harvard Graduate School of Education of Current Population Survey data from October 2004 found that family income has a significant impact on the likelihood of attending college. In 2004, 75 percent of students whose families made more than $50,000 went on to immediately enter a postsecondary institution, compared to just 43 percent from families who made less than $30,000.

    Disparities in income are also reflected in college retention and completion rates. A 2006 study found just 36 percent of low-income students finished a bachelor’s degree within eight years, while 81 percent of their high-income peers did so.

    Most high-paying jobs will not hire an employee if they have not graduated from college, leaving the playing field uneven for Americans not fortunate enough to be born into privilege and wealth. They must work harder and possibly wait longer in order to save enough money just so they can attend a university. Minimum-wage employment or community college offer alternatives in the meantime. That is why the president also stressed the importance of community colleges improving their teaching, as they are the higher education option for many Americans.

    We shouldn’t completely change the way we view a college degree. We need society to put a high value on graduating college, so that everyone is offered an equal opportunity, regardless of personal income or good fortune. We need to make sure that the door is always open and that every American has the opportunity to improve their life and eventually their family’s lives. If we don’t allow all Americans to have this opportunity, then the disparity between social classes in the United States will inevitably widen.

    Obama said exactly what needed to be said.

    He put the responsibility in the hands of the universities to help these students. These institutions have the power and the voice to make a change for good. They need to use their power and share it with the ones who were not fortunate enough to be born with it.

    Similarly, college students need to feel more blessed with the opportunities that we were born with, as many Americans do not have the opportunities to live a happier life like we do.

    — Luke Davis is a pre-journalism sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

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