Op-Ed: Higher education: a profit-driven gateway leaving poor students in the dust

Young people in this country are in a moment of crisis, and have been for some time, but no one is talking about it. Meanwhile, big banks and loan corporations like Wells Fargo, Sallie Mae, SunTrust and U.S. Bank are making money off students’ need and desire to get an education.

Corporations and the top 1 percent of the United States have developed an entire system to extract money from the most vulnerable through higher education. This means that many people can’t afford to go to college, are rejected from universities because of their financial need or attend only to be laden with crippling debt for the rest of their lives; rising costs at private and public institutions alike have necessitated private loans, which come with massive interest rates and years of repayment plans. At the same time, higher education has become a need, not a want, for many in the United States. The American economy continues to demand more educational qualifications from the American workforce. College has become a marketized gateway to employment leaving People of Color and poor people out of the economic equation altogether.

The dominant narrative that promises students access to the college of their dreams as long as they work hard in high school is, put simply, a lie. Institutions of higher education like Tufts practice discriminatory policies that exclude students from receiving admissions letters because they have demonstrated financial need. Even if students do gain admission to Tufts, education is by no means accessible when a diploma carries the weight of hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. While students struggle under this massive burden, corporate higher-ups sit comfortably on boards of private universities, hiking tuition costs and funneling the money towards their own private interests, rather than investing in educators and communities.

Financial aid packages offered to students may also be involved in systems seeking to profit off of students. Tufts includes institutional loans in our financial aid packages, embedding us in the same profit game as the large financial institutions making money off of students.

Countries around the world are providing accessible higher education to young people while many colleges in the United States have tuition costs that exceed the nation’s median household income. It is time for us as to recognize that higher education should not be a privilege for the wealthy few, but a human right for all. Governments and lawmakers could easily address this issue by making higher education a government-funded public good, regulating corporate influence over higher education, or a variety of other measures to open educational opportunities up towards all communities. A conversation must be started about the inaccessibility of higher education in the United States, and at Tufts in particular.

Tufts students are going hungry, working long hours on top of academic work, and many have struggled with health issues while unable to pay copays for medicine under university health insurance. Low-income students are constantly met with insurmountable financial obstacles, often being told that they ought to be grateful for the opportunities college gives them. And still, with the odds stacked against us, students are changing the world. Every day we are dreaming of a brighter future, and we are in a unique position to ignite a movement for educational justice for all.

As a national student movement, we have members at universities across the country engaging in a national campaign to make higher education financially attainable and accessible for all. Corporate higher education causes millions of people to suffer under crushing debt while others remain in poverty due to lack of access and opportunity for advancement. We will not stay silent at Tufts, as students attending a university that runs on a $70,600 tuition, but this issue is also bigger than us, and it is time to make a change.