Do College Protesters Have Legitimate Complaints?

Across America college students are complaining about rising tuition at public institutions of higher learning. This leads us to a pivotal question: How much are those who aspire to advanced education entitled to?

Student protest
Student protest at U.C. Berkeley –                  Photo: Elizabeth Popham for Politics Daily

We invite our readers’ comments. We would love to see open dialog about this timely and important issue in our blog. There is, of course, no right or wrong answer to that question. Each person’s opinion depends, of course, on individual sets of values and beliefs. In our book, Enough of Us, we raise our own concerns about the inequities of a system that charges higher income taxes on those who choose to have fewer kids, or none at all.
Every child in America is entitled to a free 13 year scholarship. And while they are receiving their K-12 education, their parents are getting tax deductions. Why should that be? No one forced them to have kids. It was a choice.
After high school, lots of young women and men get low-cost educations at junior and senior colleges. But exactly what should these students be entitled to? Why isn’t it their parents who should be footing the bill? After all, we’re talking about their kids.
Of course, many kids are the progeny of poor homes, incompetent parents, and parents who abandoned them, are in prison, or died. We certainly make no case for leaving the unfortunate out in the cold. But what about the rest? How many middle class families live with an expectation of entitlement?
Here are some questions that might focus the discussion a little:
• Did the parents stash away enough money in anticipation of the cost of college?
• Did the parents spend a lot on a mortgage for an expensive home, which cut into the amount they were saving? Were they upgrading their kitchen when they might have been increasing their nest egg?
• How many expensive vacations did they take?
• How many computers, family cellular service bundles, and other tech devices did they spend money on?
• How many TVs were there, and were they attached to cable services. Did the cable packages include premium services like HBO, Showtime and the like? (In today’s dollars, HBO alone costs more than $3,000 over an 18-year span.)
• Did the kids get cars – and insurance – from their parents?
• Did they shop at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s when they could have been buying at Target and Costco?
• Were the kids raised with a boat, RV, or other recreational vehicle in the family?
Here is our point. When a family indulges itself in other than the necessities of life, only to find there is not enough left to finance their kids’ educations, why is it the government’s (read “taxpayers’”) responsibility to make up the difference?
The average 4-year college graduate owes $26,000 in student loans. That’s $6,500 per year. So? We understand that in times like these, when the government let us down and looked the other way while corporate America gave us – and is still giving us – a royal screwing, it is not a good time for students to pay debts.
Repayment on those debts should be delayed without interest while the federal government pays the interest (or requires the private lenders to hold the debt without interest). After all, it was the government’s lack of oversight that got the world into this mess.
But when times are better, the families that borrowed the money should pay it back. As for those who could not afford college and who did not squander their incomes for eighteen years per child, they deserve help. It’s not the kids’ faults that parents who could not afford them had them.
These are our points. We’re sure you have opinions of your own. We’d love to hear them and we’d love to open a dialog between the folks who read our blog.
One last point. To us, Thanksgiving is the gold standard of American holidays. It’s about gratitude, period. Except for groceries, it’s not about buying stuff. Holiday materialism doesn’t start until a second after Thanksgiving. We both give thanks every year for the bounty in our lives. Unfortunately there are now millions of homeless kids in America. It’s not fair. Our hearts go out to them and we wish them all good fortune. Whatever the status of those striving for higher education, and those participating in Occupy _______ (fill in the blank), we all have much to be thankful for, not the least of which are the freedoms to assemble and to speak out for what we believe in.


  1. I agree with many of your points regarding gross materialism and paying for college. I also do not believe in tax deductions as a reward for parents. But I do think the whole society benefits from free schooling for 13 years, and I do think people should go to college to become more enlightened and capable of contributing something to the world..

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