30°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Great Debate: Going to college is a service to America

Were a state to shut down all public schools within it, would you not believe it to violate a

fundamental right? Well, the truth is, that unless such an event were to occur and be challenged to the

U.S. Supreme Court, we will never know. But, in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in an alternate

case, related to the funding of public schools, that education is not a “fundamental” right- a status held

by other state-run institutions, such as marriage- despite the widespread existence and dependence on

public schools throughout the country. However, a lack of such a right on the federal level does not mean

it is absent all together.

 

According to Chapter V, Section II of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of

Massachusetts, “Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty

of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature

and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools and grammar

schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the

promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country;

to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity,

industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings; sincerity, good humor, and all social affections,

and generous sentiments among the people.”

 

There can be no doubt, that at least on the state level, there is indeed a right to education- including

higher education. However, despite the pledge in our state constitution, it has been awhile since the state

legislature has actually properly funded our public universities- let alone reward them. Since the 1980s,

our public higher education system has been the first to be hit by deep cuts, only to not have the funding

restored in good economic times. In turn, this has shifted more and more of the cost burden on to

students, denying those in less fortunate circumstances the opportunity to exercise such a right-

weakening the Commonwealth.

 

It is no secret that a highly trained work force pulls in a higher salary, helping those who would need it most, while bringing in more tax dollars to the Commonwealth and

increase economic activity, as our state legislature noted in a 2006 report. Furthermore, the Task Force

on Inequality and American Democracy found in 2004 that: “Only some Americans fully exercise their

rights as citizens, and they usually come from the more advantaged segments of society. Those who enjoy

higher incomes, more occupational success, and the highest levels of formal education, are the ones most likely

to participate in politics and make their needs and values known to government officials.”

 

We have long known that education increases the likelihood of political participation. As we enter an

era where people strongly distrust our government, and feel that it is not truly representative of the will

of the people- should we not increase the number of those participating? In turn, should that not mean

ensuring everyone has access to an education? That is not to say that because education is a right it

should be free, but it does mean everyone should be able to afford and access higher education, for the

betterment of themselves, our commonwealth, and this nation, without falling into a hole of debt that is

impossible for them to climb out of.

 

Education is a right on the state level, plain and simple. Federally, the waters are murky and

may never truly be clear. What is clear is that the more accessible education is, on any level, the better

the results for the individual and for the society of the whole. Next spring I will gladly call myself an

alum of UMass Boston – an astounding public university to which all citizens of the commonwealth

should have access to, provided they put in the time and effort necessary for such an undertaking. I will

be proud to say I graduated from a public university that recognizes these issues with an urban mission.

What I will not be proud of, however, is how far to the brink the state legislature is pushing families in

the commonwealth with continued cuts to higher education- forcing an increase in cost. Their mission

has been to promote education and increase it’s accessibility, and they are slowly abandoning that duty.

 

Education is not just a right, it’s also a necessity for our nation to maintain itself and pursue its agenda in the world. Such a thing cannot be left to chance.