Wednesday 23rd January 2013

by sophie

I pose to you today a question that I wish for you to consider, as you re-enter your classrooms and dormrooms and lecture halls (that is, if, you, like me, are a university student; else, perhaps as you send your sons and daughters and friends back to such similiar places).

What is the price of a good education?

It is true, of course, that on some level a good education has no price. For knowledge is both priceless and infinitely valuable.

But this is not how, for all intents and purposes, we are taught to think in pragmatic life, or at least not at our present state and nation; and this you must surely know, for even public schooling is not truly free, paid for students in the form of taxes and subsidies and other pecuniary means. Budget cuts, tax increases: these are the buzzwords we often hear in the political arena with respect to education. I, for one, loyal to my liberal stance, default to protest the cut of funding for schools and cheer programs to increase its quality. Yet at what point may we say, STOP? and when must we say, GO?

I am an undergraduate of Columbia University, surely among the most expensive educations in the world. The raw cost of 1 year’s tuition is $45,028.00; with financial aid and scholarship, it becomes incrementally more affordable, but even so, an enormous sum (and not all Universities provide such great financial support). Surely, at this price, my education must be nonparallel; and in some ways, this is in fact true, and I am extremely fortunate.

But if we may read the quality of education as proportional to its price, and thusly say that this is truly the highest quality of education that humanity can provide at this moment, than I reply that humanity must be in a very sorry state indeed.

In the first 2 days of courses this semester I can already count 2 classrooms that had not enough seats for students; 3 that were over-registered. In one class more than 10 students sat on the floor for the duration of the nearly 2 hour lecture below the vision of the professor; in another, students were encouraged to sit on window ledges rather than crowd the aisles on a day of 7°F wind chills.

This is one of the highest price tags for education in the world; and if at 45,028.00 dollars we cannot provide even the bare essentials for students (a place to sit and the ability to both see and hear the lesson), it frightens me to hear at what tuition hike this may be proposed feasible.

I have, of course, no definite answers, and my question of price is less about money than to suggest a point about the usage of that money and the approach that the society in which I live takes to approach the education question. It is a question that, as a student, one has a responsibility to ponder, and that I hope to explore, and I ask you to do the same.

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