This week is that time when everyone gets settled into their classes for the new semester. They meet their new professors and fellow students and get to know what they will be studying during the semester. Along with that comes the financial impact: tuition to be paid, books to be bought, parking permits to be purchased and so on.
Along with these costs usually come many complaints from those students and parents who have to fork over the bill. The argument usually goes something like this: “I can’t believe how much I have to pay to go to school. I can’t believe the books cost so much. Why can’t the government do more to ease the cost of education? They just don’t care about education.”
Theoretically, the government could reduce the cost of books and tuition to the students and/or their families. It could — again, theoretically — pay for the total education of every student. But, despite objections from those who would like it to, it doesn’t.
Why doesn’t the government pay for everyone’s education at no charge to the individual? The question really should be, “Why does the government pay as much as it does for education?”
The Florida state government contributes billions of dollars to help pay for the cost of public education. The U.S. Department of Education has a budget of about $63 billion per year, which it uses to contribute to public education.
The state and federal governments could, if they decided, tax people more than they do or devote a greater portion of their budgets than they already do in order to pay for everyone’s college expenses. But they won’t for one simple reason: While it may be a windfall for the students and parents who would no longer have to pay for tuition, books and so on, it would obviously be a burden on taxpayers.
It’s simple logic that if the students and/or their families do not pay for their education, someone else will end up paying for it. Education is paid for by money, and, as the old saying goes, money doesn’t grow on trees. Yet, many students and parents seem to forget this.
They rather concern themselves with the fact that they have to actually pay for their education. Somewhere along the line, a cheap education became just another entitlement.
And it’s not as if we have to pay for the full cost of our education as it stands right now. Rather, a large part of our education is funded through private donations and the all-important, yet seldom-respected (or remembered) taxpayers.
While those taxpayers no doubt include many students who attend post-secondary institutions as well as their parents, they also include some people who have never been enrolled in such an institution and do not have children who are enrolled in one. What that means is that they are paying out of their pockets for someone else’s kid to be a benefactor of higher education.
A majority of our society — at least, the part of our society that votes in state and national elections — has deemed it important that everyone have access to higher education and that the government should chip in to make that possible. That means taxpayers are doling out a massive amount of money in order to contribute to public education. In contrast, the cost to the individual student and their parents is considerably smaller.
Students attending a public post-secondary institution and their parents should remember, when looking at bills accumulated from education expenses, that it could be a lot worse. In a less generous society, they could actually have to pay the entire bill for that education.
They should always remember that, right or wrong, people they don’t even know are footing the bill for a large part of that education, thereby easing the burden on the students and parents. And don’t forget about all of the scholarships and loans that also help ease the burden.
Keep that in mind the next time you feel like complaining about the cost of education.
Adam Fowler is a senior majoring in political science. firstname.lastname@example.org