Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Unruly Yet Justified Neighbors

A few weeks ago I stumbled across the story of protests going on in Quebec. See link: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2012/05/2012516215036645965.html

When I found out about this I was really excited at first. According to the Al Jazeera article the Canadian Government plans to increase college and university tuition by nearly $300 until 2019. I'm sure many people stateside don't really understand why in the world Canadian students would protest over that. Most U.S. students would sigh and be irritated but how many would get out and do something? Fact is many students here are resigned to exacerbated tuition prices and simply take out more loans to cover expenses. My point is we simply accept U.S. education prices even though they continually rise and we end up with more debt. In a perfect world education would be free but everything on this earth has a cost. I fantasize about an educated population here getting out on the streets and demanding reasonable tuition but I wait in vain. The only equivalent is the recent occupy movement which was diminished prematurely in many areas.

Maybe the more than 100,000 students that came out to mark 100 days of protests will inspire American students. One fact is true, these educated youths have gotten the attention of those making the decisions. Dozens of schools have been closed as students are boycotting classes. The Montreal subway system has been shut down, windows smashed, and thousands arrested. This protest means a lot more in my mind because its a topic that is global at this moment. Students protested in London not too long ago. The cost of higher education is now forcing young people to make tough decisions. Instead of demanding a reasonably priced education here in the U.S., I find many students are asking themselves: should I go or should I not go? I believe lower and middle classed youths will continually not pursue professional degrees. I can't say I blame them. Prospects are fairly bleak at the moment for jobs. Inequality at it's finest.

I feel my generation is suffering from 'failure to launch syndrome.' Unfortunately higher education will always be in reach for wealthier families. While pursuing my graduate degree at Brandeis University, I couldn't help but be surrounded with these privileged young people. At times I couldn't believe the naivety and sense of entitlement that they felt they had. This contrasted from my undergraduate experience where I was surrounded by hardworking students scraping to get by and achieve. I'm happy I attended a state school to receive such an experience and at a decent rate. Many state schools are severely underrated and offer a great education for those unable to afford name brand schools however I still pay quite a bit for those four years. Quebecois students pay just over $2,000 a year for a university degree, not including living costs. The rest of Canada pays between $6,000 and $7,000. Oh Canada why do you always look so appealing?! Private education institutions are getting away with murder in the U.S. and this system is geared to accommodate them.

I would like to challenge anyone of any political stance that disagrees that education is out of reach for the average American youth.  My unruly neighbors are very justified.  At this rate more and more will depend on social welfare safety nets. (See story at:http://abcnews.go.com/Business/growing-number-americans-phds-receiving-food-stamps-aid/story?id=16310858#.T8onDr_kAUp ) This ABC News story reported that, "of the 22 million Americans with master's degrees or higher in 2010, about 360,000 were receiving some kind of public assistance, according to the latest Current Population Survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau in March 2011.The number of people with master's degrees who received some kind of aid grew to 293,029 from 101,682 over the same three-year period." I should be afraid to read this but instead I'm angry that we are simply rolling over and accepting this. As a first generation college and nearly master's educated woman of mixed descent, I'm lucky to have excelled to where I am today. My grandmother once told me that once you have an education no one can take that away. What she didn't tell me is that such an education could be devalued and I would be paying it off until further notice. We will see if this is also true for Quebecois students yet I wish them well and still wait in vain stateside.

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