By Kyle Allen
Obtaining a quality education has long been considered the pathway to upward social mobility and better career options.
As the United States heads deeper into the 21st century, there is no more critical issue than the declining state of our education system.
School districts in wealthier communities like Manhattan Beach benefit from education foundations that raise money to supplement limited state funding. This effectively creates a system in which public schools in wealthy areas offer far more opportunities than those in poorer ones.
According to a 2005 study conducted by the Education Trust, districts in the highest poverty areas have $907 less available per student than those in the wealthiest areas.
Access to a college education is increasingly limited to those who lack the resources to pay tuition, room and board without the help of financial aid or student loans.
The cost of attending a private four-year institution is nearly 10 times higher than it was in 1980, while the average cost of living is only 3 times as high as it was in 1980, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.
Attending a public university is not getting any easier financially, either. State systems like the University of California continue to raise in-state tuition prices at a faster rate than out-of-state tuition and are accepting more out-of-state students to make up reductions in state funding.
As state governments continue to cut education funding in the name of sound budgets, the quality of education becomes increasingly predicated on personal wealth.
If we continue this course, the economic mobility central to the American Dream will disappear, and success will be limited to those who can afford to learn.
The federal government must act to increase funding given to public schools and lower the cost of attending college by paying for any student to attend a public university if he or she agrees to spend the next five years in civil service.
Think of it as a social GI Bill that would provide an influx of talented and educated individuals to public service and create an opportunity for anyone to attend college.
Although the gulf between education opportunities is widening, this isn’t to say a proactive change can’t be made. By reconsidering the current, narrow monetary definition of tuition, students can live to see unbridled educational opportunities, and the American Dream can be revitalized.