Colleges should focus on providing an affordable education, not attracting the wealthy

I want it all.  An entirely vegan, organic menu in the dining hall, an apartment-quality living space, unlimited seats in art classes, Public Safety that doesn’t care if I drink, and a four year degree in two years.

Oh, yeah, and I don’t want to pay a dime for it. Yes, that’s my perfect college. Unfortunately it doesn’t exist, and it never will.

Even more unfortunate is that when prospective students are looking for colleges, they’re not undergoing a search for the one that would be best for them.

Very few, I think, could care about the nature of SMCM’s honors community.

The students are shopping for college. Their parents care about statistics: return on investment, employment prospects, and the like.

Students care about how pretty the campus is, how new the buildings are, and everything else – money be damned!

Or at least, the rich ones do. There is a giant economic disparity at our nation’s colleges nowadays as a result of this shopping mentality: if you can’t afford to buy the product, get out of the mall.

If you want a high-quality private school education, you can expect to pay $50,000 a year.  Why?  For the same reason, apparently, that St. Mary’s has to replace all of its dorms over the coming decade.

Colleges have to compete against one another for the best students.

Here’s the way I see it.  We have two choices: one, everyone in college starts voting.

Our generation gets onto its feet, starts screaming and shouting and yelling and marching on Capitol Hill about how ridiculous the government’s lack of education spending is.

While we’re at it we could even get more spending on secondary schooling. Choice two: reduce spending in college.

For that one, everyone in college right now has to get onto their feet and start screaming, shouting, yelling, and marching on their university’s administrative offices about ridiculous tuition hikes that, at St. Mary’s, are almost four times inflation.

I’m a college student and I think tuition is too high. In other news, the iPhone 4 is now on Verizon.  Can you hear me now?

Congress sure as hell can’t, and I feel like its unreasonable to expect a student uprising without, say, the Vietnam War or tuition tripling over 2 years (see England).

So let’s change the mentality.  Not of the world, and probably not of the nation. No, let’s start with ourselves.

We need to make it clear to our colleges that we don’t want to subscribe to the shopping mall mentality and we want to save on tuition because of that.

Congress has been talking about health care reform since the 70’s, the bill only passed in 2010. So who are we to expect tens of thousands of financial aid dollars to come raining down out of the sky onto us overnight (or even over a year)?

Nobody, because the American Association of Retired Persons and every other citizen’s advocate has been campaigning for better health benefits longer than most of us have been alive.

Do our colleges value the idea of rich prospective students over providing an affordable education?  Not as a nation, but at Pacific Lutheran University and St. Mary’s.

I’m not sure about St. Mary’s – we like being weird, here, and our financial aid philosophy is to give smaller grants to as many people as possible.  But PLU?  Dyson Airblades are supposedly eco-friendly and all, but it’s kind of obvious when they’re only at the bathrooms that touring students use.