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In his most recent State of the Union Speech, President Barack Obama called a college education an economic imperative.

In an economic situation as dire as the one the nation currently faces, funding for higher education has fallen down the list of priorities for most state legislatures. Students in need of an affordable, quality education the most are reeling in higher tuition costs.

Minority enrollment in post-secondary institutions increases at a rate of 5 percent a year according to data from the U.S. Department of Education, inaction  by the states threatens the chances of many to climb the socioeconomic latter.

Public colleges and universities compete against K-12 education, the prison system, and Medicare for funding in state legislatures with little success. Since students serve as most colleges’ largest revenue stream, higher education has always been a target for balancing the budget in past recessions, according to Arturo Perez, a fiscal analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Within two years, half of the 50 states cut as much as 20 percent its university systems ‘budgets. Students in these systems have seen tuition increases upwards of 10 percent or more as a result.

Cuts in state funding have caused state universities to fore go a commitment to quality education and access to poorer communities that made it so attractive in the first place. Many have consolidated administrative offices and shortened hours for certain departments. Adjunct professors have taken the place of more qualified and tenure tracked full-time faculty. Some schools like the State University of New York do not offer certain majors anymore.

In another blow to middle and poor class families, merit based financial aid is slowly replacing need based aid. Admissions departments are more likely to focus efforts on part – time, out of state, and international students, according to a survey conducted by Inside Higher Ed. Tuition from these sought after groups fund amenities that would continue to attract more just like them. This is all part of what experts call ‘a privatization of public institutions.’

This is a phenomenon that threatens the future of those who have referred to themselves as the 99 percent. Leaders have stressed time and time again that education should be looked at as more than a luxury. Unfortunately, it is becoming more of a luxury especially at a time when the middle class is eroding and the gap between rich and poor stretches further than before. States have a responsibility to properly fund public institutions.

Contrary to what some believe, the poor who live in the urban slums are some of the hardest working people in America. They would like nothing more but to see their child enjoy the benefits of a quality education, especially if it means a better life and creation of wealth. However, if they cannot afford it then the legacy of inequality will continue to plague this country. It all starts with equal access to quality education.

Give HOPE. Live HOPE.

Samuel Collins, Jr.
Guest Blogger

About the Author

Sam Collins is currently a columnist at The GW Hatchet and submits posts to Tweet the Streets from time to time. In addition, he just started his semester-long internship at NPR Weekend Edition. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Policy at the George Washington University, where he also earned his B.A. in journalism. His interests include national and international politics, education policy, history, and go-go music, a genre of music endemic to his native city, Washington,DC. He  Check out his blog – http://alleyesondc.com – for his take on DC politics. 

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