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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Great Debate: Free markets and hard times demand responsible policy

$26,396. This is the approximate yearly cost of attendance at the University of Massachusetts Boston, unsubsidized by the state. A university needs land, buildings, infrastructure, staff, faculty, teaching materials, and more in order to provide an education to students. Professors do not teach for the fun of it. Brick and mortar do not spring out of the ground. It takes $26,396 per student to keep the university operating, and this does not include capital costs; maintain and expanding the campus. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently awarded $750,000,000 in borrowed bond money to the maintenance and expansion of the UMass Boston campus. This must be paid back with interest for years to come.


We, as Americans, live in a capitalist system. The free market drives its business interactions and acts as prime symbol of its philosophical underpinnings. If an entity, like America, is to survive, it must provide a product or service that is worth purchasing or using in a manner consistent with the idea that all individuals pursue their dreams via the sweat of their brow. Education is no different. Education is not a God-given right; it is not found in nature and available to all. It is not outlined in law as a right given to all American citizens. Education and its delivery are a product of man, and are therefore subject to the rules, regulations, and systems that govern any product; to obtain it, you must pay.


If higher education is considered a right, it’s simply another large expenditure on the books of the federal and state government that must be marshaled in spite of the budgetary troubles that plague these institutions. It means that the bureaucracy must pick up the slack for insuring that there’s an equal distribution of resources for all citizens, including all of the things mentioned in the first paragraph. If the current public university are so heavily leveraged, how can we expect such a system to finance the education of its current students and new wards if higher education is deemed a right?


When one looks at the struggle to balance the budget in our own legislature, it’s self-evident to see that the finances of the Bay State has been strained under the other entitlement programs like our state healthcare system and various other welfare programs while major cuts have been taken by the education portion of the budget. It behooves the common man to believe that the state needs to be further stretched – especially with all the shortfall of the balanced budgets of years past. Only irresponsible people would cast higher education as a right, a term which implies a ironclad obligation for state and federal government agencies.


Undoubtedly, my worthy opponent and many readers will extol on the virtues of having a well-educated workforce. My response is this: does higher education allow you to earn more money over the course of your lifetime? Yes, it has been shown to do so. But so has investing, hitting the lottery, and inheriting funds from your rich uncle; sadly, none of these are rights given for free to all. Just because it is a potential platform for success does not mean it should be given out like whiskey and presidential pardons at the Kennedy Family Christmas Party. Does car ownership enhance employment opportunities? Absolutely, but that does not mean the government should award you an Audi to Tom Brady on your way to work. Everything in life has a cost, it’s time to grow up and realize you need to work for your keep.


Even beyond the obvious relationship between product and cost, the question must be asked: is higher education even for everybody? A University degree isn’t any remarkable advantage in a skilled trade. That degree in Women’s Studies will not help you build a house, fix a pipe, or provide services our society has come to rely on. Why should the government pay tens of thousands of dollars for all citizens to traverse the perils of a writing proficiency exam? Where will that get us as a nation, when all skilled tradesmen and laborers can discuss the finer points of Freudian psychology? Higher education is absolutely not for everyone. It should be specialized for your specific goals in life, not a band-aid for all. When everyone has that coveted Philosophy degree, it loses the edge it would have provided if you had worked for it in the first place. It cheapens the act.


The same advocates for higher education as a right would say that an education in all fields has its own intrinsic value. That’s true, but only up to a point. There are some issues that must be considered. First, the thoroughness of the education that each student receives varies based on the professors he encounters in his journey and tempered by how studious he is as a student. Both these factors vary from person to person and school to school. Second, there’s the issue of whether the curriculum itself is oriented for the real needs of the US economy. No one can say what our precise needs are, much less say how many people are truly apt for actual the employment needs of our nation. Third, who can guarantee that the quality of education, facilities, and support will remain the same when higher education is made a right? No one can say. The journey through public school doesn’t even work the same as what happens in Europe. Vocational schools are entirely optional, whereas the less successful students in many European nations are required to undergo vocational classes in order to meet the needs of the nation, while the more academically proficient students would go on to university to learn about business, international relations, and the higher calling of leaders and movers in society.


Now if you’ll excuse me, I must exercise my cost-free right to phlebotomy class. Sure I’m a security guard, but hey, the government says any education is good education, right?