Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Education, a right or a privilege?

I remember back when I was an undergraduate: in the UK, if you were accepted to a university, you were eligible for a grant which covered some of your living expenses (rent, food, etc). Your fees were covered (invisibly: you never saw a bill, nor did you hold the money to pay said bill in your account) by the grant. It was on the order (if I recall correctly) of about a thousand pounds or two per year: it was means-tested, so that if your parents were wealthy they were expected to make up some of it (although, significantly, the fees were still covered by the government).
Thatcher changed all this: not necessarily for the better --- it is hard for me to tell from this side of the Atlantic: but the situation over here is far far worse. Fees and rent at some private colleges now run on the order of $40000--$50000, and while most places have some "scholarships" available, it is still the case that for a huge number of students, going to even a cheaper college, costing "only" $10000 a year or so, involves going significantly into debt.

Now, if one comes from a wealthy family, the idea of starting adult life with a huge debt might be tenable: and of course, one might be able to persuade daddy and mummy to contribute a substantial portion. But for someone whose family is in, say, the bottom 30% income bracket, the prospect of assuming a bigger debt load than a couple of years income can be quite daunting.

This, of course, is just one component in how the US has been able to maintain such a huge military force --- serve for long enough and you get to go to college with a great deal of support.

Education in this country, it seems, is a privilege, not a right: and I find that disappointing.

Yours, having taken it for granted,

1 comment:

awareness said...

It continues to perpetuate the haves vs. the havenots.....

As much as our tuition increases annually in Canada, it's still a deal.....and student loans and grants are plentiful for students who need financial assistance.