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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Student Squeeze

With the stock market spiraling downward, many Americans are in a state of anxiety, fear, and nervousness. Although many Americans are now struggling to survive, the case of the college student is especially disconcerting. To use a popular campaign terminology, many college students are in a “middle class squeeze”.

In an unstable economy, people tend to go back to school with the hopes of improving their skills and increasing their paychecks. This translates into more competition for limited spots in undergraduate and graduate programs. At the same time, funding for programs, faculty, and financial aid is cut to balance budgets – who didn’t receive that scary e-mail about funding for UMB being cut? – and tuition goes up. Finally, thanks to the credit crisis, it is even harder for students to find and receive student loans.

All of these factors combine to create a student squeeze. The price of education increases as sources of financial aid dry up. Also, many students work part-time as well as receiving some financial aid, and many of these jobs pay minimum wage or less. Upon graduation, students enter an unstable market, which means an uncertain future. Furthermore, there is the obligation to pay back all those loans that paid for your diploma.

Isn’t it great to be a student? Believe it or not, the situation could be much worse. The Great Depression of the 1930s, and the several years leading up to it, was an era of change and uncertainty for American citizens. The country was in the process of challenging tradition and seeking to redefine the role of government. Business was being exposed as an untrustworthy tyrant, and government was unsure of its ability to protect the people. People were suffering at the hands of their employers, the economy, and a government that looked the other way.

Especially hard hit were young adults, large groups of young men spent their days roaming across the country, begging for food and shelter, as their parents could no longer afford to take care of them. The unemployment rate among this demographic was particularly high.

While today college students are experiencing the squeeze of high prices and low funds, young women and men are still going to college and continue to have options. Therefore, while I am inclined to believe that the sky really is falling along with our futures, I think that there is hope. The situation is not as bad as it could be. There are signs of resilience among our generation, as we are the generation that has adapted to terrorism and school shootings.

Students continue to go to class, do their homework, and look forward to graduation. People continue to find and go to work and go shopping, less frequently yes, but it is still happening. While ignoring the situation in hopes of returning to normalcy would be the wrong thing to do, it would also be wrong to assume that we as Americans and college students can’t recover from this crisis.