Sunday, January 10, 2016

Crawling Like a Snail by Yunfei Feng


In the TV series, “The Good Wife,” Alicia Florrick, the main actress, said she needed to deposit a large amount of money in her account, probably $750,000, because her two kids were going to college. A famous lawyer in that series, Alicia won the state’s attorney election in the latest episode and she said the salary of state’s attorney cannot cover her children’s college tuition. Although these words are just the actor’s lines, I believe they reflect the serious challenge that college students and their families are facing.


With the sky-rocketing increase in tuition and dormitory fees nowadays, college graduates routinely begin their working lives deep in debt. They are burdened by these overwhelming debts from the beginning of college life, having no time to take a rest. A survey shows that the total amount for a student without scholarship in college is $60,000 per year, even higher than the average salary of a male who has an undergraduate diploma in America. There is no denying that the tuition is a devastating debt for a middle class family. Furthermore, American families usually have more than one child. Despite more and more females choosing to work in order to enrich their lives and fulfill their dreams, there is a large portion of women who become housewives when they have a baby or get pregnant. If the whole family is only supported financially by the male parent, it is obviously not enough when their children go to college.


Here is a description in the article “The Price of Admission” written by Thomas Frank:

In March 2012, when the Republican front-runner, Mitt Romney, was taking questions at a town-hall meeting in Mahoning Valley, Ohio, a high school senior rose to explain that he was on his way to college, but that he worried about the cost. In response, Romney gave one of his patented lessons in managerial smugness. The solution was to “recognize that college is expensive” but that competition “works.” No “government money” would be forthcoming under his regime. And so it was up to the student-consumer himself to “shop around,” compare the goods offered up in the freewheeling marketplace of educational choice, and make the best decision he could.


When I read this paragraph, I felt angry. The government’s attitude should be changed. The aim of government is to provide benefits and services for its residents. Education should be the basic right for a child. Everyone deserves the opportunity to be educated and absorb various types of knowledge. If a government cannot provide these chances for its citizens, it is not a competent one. When a student is faced with the choice of which university he wants to apply for, he should not focus on money, at least not as the priority. He should choose a place where he can get help to achieve his dream and broaden his horizon. He should choose a place where he can grow up and become a better man. He should choose a place where he learns how to hold the world in his heart and pursue the truth instead of studying hard in order to repay loans.


University life is a period for transformation. Students learn professional knowledge and identify the direction they want their careers to run. They arm themselves with all the information they can get and experiment constantly with new ways to pursue their dreams. They are just like the sun at 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning, warm and lively. They gather strength and prepare everything they will need for future success in college. Being deeply in arrears is not a position which stimulates their will to fight. On the contrary, it is the snail’s shell which can drive students crazy. College students carry heavy debt in the exact same way that snails carry heavy shells and crawl slowly. They will be afraid of the amount of the capital which needs to be invested into their project and deny their original thoughts in order to save some money. They will be timid to dream something big because they cannot afford it. They may give up their favorite major and choose another one because they need to find a well-paid job to repay the debt after graduation. They struggle helplessly in a hard life.

Money isn’t everything. However, it is indeed the key to all doors. Without money, you can do nothing. When all your savings are dispossessed by the “crazy” tuition, you have no wings for dreams. Although there are many favorable policies related to student loans, they cannot solve the basic problem. The tuition has grown too rapidly in recent years. Student loans only delay the problem from erupting for a while. It cannot solve the problem ultimately. If the tuition keeps growing, the problem will be fuelled and is going to be worse.

In my opinion, government should be responsible for the “horrible” tuition. Universities are not merchandise put on the shelves waiting to be bought in the market. Governors should not request students to choose their universities from the position of being consumers. I don’t agree with what Mr. Romney said in the meeting: “Consumers shop around, they compare and contrast, and they get the best deal they can, reassured all the while by their awareness that competition works. Just don’t come whining to the government for help” (Frank). Applying to universities is one of the most important decisions in a student’s life. It is just like the process of choosing a spouse. The “personality” and “ability” should be considered first, not the costs. That is the reason why we need a government---to protect its citizens and guarantee their basic human rights. Relevant policy should be legislated to control the growing cost of tuition according to the inflation and the economy. Combined with the GDP and the average income in each state, government should recommend corresponding tuition for each university and stipulate that the floating between the actual tuition and the recommend one cannot excess a certain range.


Besides, the Departments of Education and Treasury should cooperate and supervise the flow of funds in each university. Colleges should report their expenditure at the end of each year to these departments and make a detailed budget at the beginning of next year. If there is something unreasonable, government can take measures to rectify the situation. Schools should control expenditure and publish important decisions and donations regularly to the students and parents. If a college wants to make a pivotal assessment like building a stadium or other infrastructure which will cost a lot of money, they should convene the students’ representatives, analyze the advantages and disadvantages for them, ask for their opinions, let them be a part of the decision committee and vote for the proposal. Students should be informed where their money is going and become part of the decision-making process.


Frank also notes that twenty years ago, the Department of Justice charged the Ivy League universities and MIT with conspiring to restrict financial-aid awards, and thus to fix prices. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh even called the schools a “collegiate cartel.” The Ivies settled immediately after the suit was filed in 1991, signing a consent decree that forbade them to collude over tuition, salary, or financial-aid awards, but I should mention that the decree expired in 2001. Looking back from twenty years on, it’s clear that the Ivy League schools did little to keep their promise. Some believe it may have driven costs even higher. All these famous universities regard their prestige as a selling point based on the common sense that we live in a “knowledge economy” and the diploma from prestigious school is the credential towards a successful career and happy life. As rational people, we should realize that the college degree and the brand of world-famous universities is not the conclusive element of our lives. What really matter is who we are. The abilities and qualities we own are the genuine gems, not the degree. The diploma cannot represent anything and is only a souvenir of the most beautiful days in our lives. It isn’t a pledge which will win success. You need to win your success by yourself. From this point, there is no reason for us to pay so much for the prestige. The training system and the teachers in these famous schools may be one of the keys to cultivate the best students, leaders and millionaires, but the most critical factor is your intelligence, hard-working manner and creativity. If we can change our mind and pay more attention on the improvement of our own abilities instead of pursuing the prestige of school in order to satisfy our vanity, the tendency of tuition increasing may be slowed down even restrained.


The unreasonable tuition is a nightmare for many students and their families, and it should be controlled immediately. Only in this way, can more young people get the chance to be educated and allow the country to become better and wealthier.


Works Cited

Frank, Thomas. “The Price of Admission” Harper's Magazine. June 2012. Web.


Yunfei Feng is now a senior student in China. Upon receiving her bachelor's degree in July, 2016, she will work as a junior data analytics specialist in Shanghai for Opera Solutions Corporation. Two years later, she hopes to apply for a master’s program in the USA.

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