OpEd

Opinion: Stumbling Toward Progress

A Look at My Education During the Global Pandemic

By Contributing Writer W.P Miner

One of the artillery batteries at Fort Preble, showing plants pushing up through the concrete under a grey sky.
Already long abandoned, many of the batteries and bunkers around Fort Preble have become increasingly overgrown since March 2020. Photo by Liliana Palmer for the Beacon.

The pandemic has illustrated the necessity to make college affordable for everyone, not just the privileged few. For many students, college during the pandemic has made what was already a nerve-racking experience almost unbearable. In the modern economy a college degree is almost a necessity if one wishes to enter the workforce and the middle class. With this in mind, the cost of education is a stretch for most Americans, as students need to take on their educational workload, full time jobs and what to many will amount to the cost of a mortgage on their first home. For the year 2020/2021, the average student’s tuition fees varied between $10,560 and $37,650 depending on financial aid; whether the school was private or public, or whether the student was attending an in-state or out-of-state school [1]. Furthermore, depending on whether a student is in need of room and board, additional living expenses can increase on average as much as $11,000 or $13,000 [2].  

With the pandemic exacerbating these concerns it is perhaps no wonder that more than 560,000 undergraduate students didn’t enroll in the fall of 2020, compared to 2019 [3]. However, the fallout of not having a Bachelor’s degree has a cost. In 2011, it was reported that individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree made on average  more than $21,000 more than individuals without a BA [4]. That is not to say that two-year-trade schools are not a better and more affordable option for many; however, it ought to be the option of anyone to strive for their passions and receive an education if they want one.

During the pandemic I have had the privilege of having an experience novel to many – reapplying myself academically, rediscovering my drive and finding my passion. I had dropped out of college during the first semester of my junior year, and now as I begin examining where I would like to finish my education, it is an unavoidable fact that getting into a school is an increasingly small factor in determining my ability to attend.

Making college more affordable is a difficult prospect, and good people will disagree on what is a profoundly complicated and vitally important debate; however, what cannot stand is the status quo. It cannot remain a fact of life in the richest country in the world that only the wealthiest among us can afford the right to provide their children with an unburdened education. What I have been provided already by attending a single class at SMCC has been a life changing, and work affirming experience. By virtue of my state’s affordable academic options, I have been able to study a subject that I love, learned to manage my time under tricky circumstances, and proved to myself that I am capable of completing my pursuit of both an education and a better life than I thought possible even a year ago. Every individual deserves this right. The question is left now to the broader society whether it will be one that provides its citizens with the means to be successful, or whether the American dream will continue to have a price tag attached to it.

[1] College Date.com. (2021) How Much Does College Cost

[2] College Date.com. (2021) How Much Does College Cost

[3] Hari Sreenivasan (January 19th) PBS. How the Pandemic is Impacting College Students’ Mental Health. PBS

[4] Bigfuture.collegeboard.org. College Costs: FAQs

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