June 10, 2016
By Carissa Richetti

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Starbucks’s “College Achievement Plan” has partnered with ASU to provide free tuition for their employees.

2016 has been a benchmark year, and I’m happy to live in the midst of more progressive ideals, such as more civil rights being granted to LGBTQ+ people and the increased use of medical marijuana. However, with all of the changes in the air, you would assume that someone would address the astronomically high price of a college education. I am fortunate enough to be a student; however, there are many people who are left behind because of their financial circumstances. The saying “poverty begets poverty” rings true, as many lack the necessary resources to reach a status which is not impoverished.

A study done by the ACT, the organization which administers standardized tests noted that 76% of all high school graduates are not “adequately prepared” for college. This percentage does not denote how much of that group lives in poverty or attends a failing school; however, a student living in poverty is often not going to have the available resources to perform well at a higher education level. Between a failing high school, added stress due to poverty, and lack of opportunity, students who are not well off are at a disadvantage, and that disadvantage only grows at a college level.

In a report published by the University of Pennsylvania, only 9% of students from the lowest income bracket earned at least a Bachelor’s degree by age 24, which was only a mere 3% increase from a 1970 study measuring education; on the other hand, 77% of students from the top 25% will earn at least a bachelor’s degree – a stark 68% higher than their impoverished classmates. This encourages the cycle of poverty by keeping those without opportunity in a position unable to gain more. What does this nation gain by keeping certain people in dire financial circumstances, more worried about getting food on the table than trying to get a degree? That only furthers a divide in our society.

I’m also lucky enough to be employed right now. That’s definitely not the case for all college students, and it’s not the case for many high school graduates. American media has been picking up on the fact that more college graduates are now moving back in with their parents than in previous years. Today, many college grads are not able to immediately find jobs, or are unable to find jobs to support themselves easily, on top of having student loans to pay back as well. It has become the norm to move back in with your parents. While it’s nice to know that they’re there for you, it is a harsh reality to become independent for a short time during college, only to become dependent again after graduating. Within the last 6 years, the rate of college grads moving back home increased from 24% to 26%. Despite the unemployment rate falling to 7.7%, high amounts of student loans for those lucky enough to go to college create more debt. This debt makes it hard for the average grad to pay bills without being stifled. How is a student to get an education in a country which practically requires one to be successful when all it does is create a huge financial burden?

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders raised a lot of doubt with his claims to provide free college, but there are a few leading programs already making free college a reality. Starbucks’s College Achievement Plan provides a free college education in partnership with ASU online for their employees and employees’ families. “42” the free coding school being opened this fall in Fremont, California is another example of free education. What’s so radical about wanting to make the new high school diploma more accessible?

All too often people without a college degree fall prey to for-profit technical schools because of their “generous scholarship opportunities” and because they believe it is a cheaper option to learn a trade. While it may be smart to learn a trade (not everyone wants to go to college after all) what about the students who go simply because they believe it will get them somewhere that a high school diploma could not? ITT Tech has been sued numerous times for harassing students into applying and those who shell out the exorbitant amounts of cash required to go there graduate and find that many people don’t take their education seriously. The government sides with the students in these cases, and in the case of ITT Tech, students even had their tuition refunded. An article from Gawker actually tells us that some graduates from for-profit schools make less than what they made before going. I am forced to question why a country that values opportunity so much, could offer some people so little in terms of an education.

Carissa Richetti is a junior at the University of South Florida. She works as an editorial intern for The Penny Hoarder. In her free time, she works on her first book, gets lost on the internet, or gets involved in political activism.

This is a guest post. Carissa Richetti grants New People News publishing rights.