Unnecessary amenities restrict access to higher education

Daniel Horowitz, Associate Views Editor

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

In our society, the fact that access to higher education is reliant on socioeconomic class is a sad reality. Students coming from families with lower incomes are less likely to go to college than their wealthier counterparts. Not only the federal government but institutions of higher learning have an innate role in ensuring lower income students have an equal opportunity to obtain a college degree.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the amount of lower-income students enrolled in colleges and universities has been decreasing since 2008, when a little more than half of these students were seeking higher education. Higher education simply is too much for some families to afford.

Oddly enough, colleges charge more for tuition when there is more access to money from the federal government. With the government providing scholarships and loans, wouldn’t it be possible for schools to operate under the assumption they can increase tuition to cover the difference? While there is evidence to back this theory, there is certainly more to the mystery of rising tuition rates.

In the U.S., there has been a commodification of higher education. Essentially, colleges and universities are beginning to market themselves more as commercial products than as mechanisms for learning. This focus shift is ideal for attracting students, as long as they can pay for the education.

Schools vie for the best students by investing in high-quality facilities that will make them seem more appealing. The purpose of this is all so that universities can stand out to students who want the best classrooms, faculty, residence halls, dining halls or recreation centers. The more schools spend on those facilities, the more students have to pay to help maintain them.

This shift doesn’t mean the government should stop providing loans. Even if there were a decrease or elimination of federal aid toward college students, the difference would not be enough to make a huge impact on the cost of college tuition. Schools should also not stop working towards better facilities. There should, however, be more money allocated toward financial aid for students to make college more affordable.

While institutions of higher learning need to do their part to ensure lower-income students can attend college, the government should take more action as well. Providing loans is one way, but funding the institutions themselves could be more beneficial. When schools have more money to spend on high-end facilities for students, then they might not need to increase tuition for students for these commodities. More funding could also mean allowing schools to give more financial aid so that lower-income students are not edged out of the higher learning system or discouraged to participate in it.

In a world where society treats higher education more like a necessity, it is a shame that access to it is reliant on someone’s income or home zip code. There needs to be more attention paid to ensuring that all students get the education they deserve.

Daniel is a junior at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected].