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College: Educational Opportunity or Big Business?

Student loans are structural barriers to quality education, meaningful work, and economic contribution for students post-graduation. As the wonderful documentary Default shows so vividly, everything is stacked against you as a borrower: the contract itself, the institutional policies of the lending companies, and the Federal regulations that govern the loans. Add in administration-heavy universities with their own priorities and state legislatures eager to spend money elsewhere, and we see a system truly out of control.

On this auspicious day, May Day, It is my pleasure to introduce our newest guest blogger Mahogany Bosworth. She is junior in college and the President of the Baltimore Algebra Project. Like her peers, Mahogany is contributing a blog related to the National Student Bill of Rights. Welcome Mahogany and contribute your thoughts to her ideas. -- Greg

College: Educational Opportunity or Big Business?

The Obama Administration is looking to increase the availability of federal student aid. One way this is done is by keeping the maximum yearly disbursal of the Pell Grant at $5,550; however, this benefit for undergraduate students comes with a sacrifice for graduate students. The Pell Grant is not available for graduate students at all and the only federal loans that grad students can receive are unsubsidized loans.

Federal aid is supposed to be available for those who "need" it; however, no one should have to pay for education out of their own pocket. It should be your right as a citizen of our country. In my opinion, there is no distinction between grade school and college. Both learning experiences teach you what you need to know to be successful in your career choice and life in general. Therefore, both should be free. In other countries, such as Denmark, Greece, Argentina, all levels of education are free, including college and university. In Denmark, students over the age of 18 get a monthly stipend. Denmark wants its students to be successful. It provides the students with money to provide for themselves, so they can focus on (free) school. It does not seem like the United States wants its students to be successful. If so, the cost of education would not be so high; it would be free.

I am currently a junior at Morgan State University. My GPA is a 3.0. To me, this is low. I am an A student, not a B student. School is not hard for me at all. It just comes naturally. However, I cannot focus completely on school because I must work to provide for my family. I would not have to work if more financial aid was available for me. My expected family contribution is $0, but I am still forced to take out loans to pay for my books. I do not think this is fair. If I can prove that I cannot afford to pay for school, why should I have to take out loans? If federal aid is available to those who "need" it (and I definitely need it), why am I taking out loans, especially at a significant interest rate? Why do students have to pay directly for school at all, instead of funding it like we do any other public institution?

School is about learning and growth; it is not supposed to be a business or a corporation. This is what the college and universities have become over the years. A National Student Bill of Rights, which includes a right that requires all levels of education to be free, would eliminate the business aspect of colleges and universities and get college back to being about choosing and mastering your career path. Therefore, I am in full support of a National Student Bill of Rights.

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