As a young man I attended an excellent Pennsylvania based school called Temple University. I was a business student at The Fox School of Business and Management, and majored in Economics. I achieved my stated goal to graduate with a 3.0, graduating with some honors courses under my belt. I walked out with a degree but I also like many people walked out with over $35,000 in debt to pay back. My loan debt wasn’t my university’s fault, but was the fault of the United States government financial program called FAFSA. Going into college there were 4 colleges listed on my application as possible schools that I’d be attending. During my sophomore and junior years, there was just Temple University listed but they found somehow to screw it up. So I had to use the Oprah Winfrey Angel Foundation scholarship of $25,000 to pay for my first 2 years with the free money that I got through financial aid and Temple University (who awards grant money when your financial aid application processes). So since my application didn’t process, the money that I should have gotten from my school never came in. My mentor and I had done the math and my scholarship, with the free money from the government and from my university should have paid for 3 years. I should have only had to take loans out for about $10,000. But having to pay for 2 more years and a summer session, my loan debt ballooned.
As my senior year came to a close, during a little down time in class, one of my professors told us about how many European students stay in college for 6 years on average because their governments paid for their education. I was flabbergasted to find that out because I knew how much I’d be paying back when I got out. It didn’t really bother me until I began working and living on my own. And this fact bothered me further when I realized that my friend who graduated from medical school had over $100,000 in loan debt when she finished; and we were apart of majority and not a minority.
To me, in the richest country in the world who’s debt ceiling was just raised to $14.3 trillion dollars ($461 million dollars for each of the 310 million people in the country) and the fact that we’ve been spending $1 billion dollars a month on a war for 10 years to kill people and supply their people with resources of many kinds; I find it appalling that my countrymen have to pay for their college education. It almost seems like a ploy to keep people in debt because before you get a job with little to no experience (which sometimes make it difficult to compete), you end up spending at least 20-30% of your earned income (after taxes) to pay off this debt for being a responsible citizen. For some people this takes a minimum of 10 years to pay back. I mean, the average large university like my beloved Temple University costs on average, $25,000 a year if you’re staying on campus. That’s $100,000 over 4 years. My government could pay for 10,000 students’ tuition and fees for four years with one month’s cost to war in Iraq/Afghanistan. Here’s the math $1 billion / $100,000 = 10,000. You do the math for a full year of war costs, and then do the math for the last 10 years and see how many students could have gone to school for next to nothing out of their pocket/loans.
But if I had known better I might have gone to school in Europe. Here’s some information on a few countries. As an international in Finland and Norway you can go to school free. Living expenses are a bit higher but you’d plan accordingly. If you can speak German, internationals pay little to no tuition. In Sweden, university was free up until 2011 for international students. Now you can apply for scholarships based on need and academic merit and still pay next to nothing. In Ireland all you have to do is be European, not just Irish, and you’re eligible to apply for a program called Free Fee Scheme and pay $0. And I hear from people and read over the internet that this isn’t just a European phenomenon, but is prevalent in other parts of the world. These governments pay for their own citizens and for the citizens of other countries. That’s pretty baffling.
I wrote this blog because I think the government should be investing more into the education of the people who’ll be the leaders of this country in the future. I wrote this because college start many people on a path of borrowing, and debt crisis that has helped to make it clear to me why the United States nearly defaulted on its loans and has driven the stock market into another free-fall. We got to school to learn how to work for others and borrow money we can’t pay back to get by. I wrote this to open the eyes of a few young high school seniors and their parents to start doing more research into higher education especially if they’re like the majority of most world populations, and that’s poor or middle class. The United States does have some opportunities for free education, and scholarships and aid are out there. But the government could be doing more in aid and information. I mean, I lost $5,000 a semester in grants because I decided to go to school out of state. Shouldn’t my governments; local, state and federal be happy that I went to college at all and give me aid because I am trying to be a productive citizen whose going to work, stimulate the economy, and pay my taxes? How about you weigh in. I don’t even want to get into the health care discussion.