Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor
March 16, 2023
A change is coming.
And I have the perfect plan for Duquesne University to get out in front of it.
The current college education financial system is not sustainable and when we look back at American Higher education. I think it will also be judged as immoral.
This is not hyperbole. This is not a prediction. The way universities in this country operate is creating a host of unforeseen consequences.
I learned a long time ago that you should not complain unless you have a solution.
And I have a solution that I think will not only help Duquesne University in the long run, but also contribute greatly to the field that I intend to spend the rest of my life in.
We should allow students who are seeking a multi-platform journalism degree to go to school for free.
No strings attached – you get accepted into the program and maintain a certain GPA, your education is free.
Now if you’re thinking, “of course this guy wants HIS degree to be free,” I can assure you that has nothing to do with my reasoning. I’m here on the G.I. Bill. If it was up to me, you could charge me twice. It would be the only worthwhile investment that the US military has made in decades.
For the other 27 current students that are multi-platform journalism majors, let’s take a look at the cost.
According to my December invoice with the cost of health care my bill was $23,942. For the sake of keeping the math simple, let’s round that down to $20,000. After four years, the cost would come to about $160,000.
For students who do not have the means to come up with that type of cash. That is a pretty hefty loan amount.
Duquesne and the liberal arts program do a very good job with finding money for students. Let’s keep the math simple, and a student who does have to take out loans is able to shave off $60,000 through grants and scholarships. They would be able to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and only $100,000 worth of loans.
According to both Nerdwallet.com and Forbes, the federal student loan interest rate for undergraduates is 4.99% for the 2022-23 school year. Federal rates for unsubsidized graduate student loans and parent loans are higher — 6.54% and 7.54%, respectively.
Again, for the sake of math, let’s use a 5% interest rate.
So, a student who is entering a field that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics the median annual wage for news analysts, reporters and journalists was $48, 370 as of May 2021. Salary.com has the average entry journalist salary in Pennsylvania is $39,401 as of Feb. 27.
If a student leaves the university with a journalism degree and is able to find a job that pays $45,000 a year while having nearly $100,000 in college debt at a 5% interest rate (paying the average student loan payment amount of $460 a month, according to the education data initiative) this graduate will be able to pay their student loan off in about 50 years.
Obviously, these numbers are imaginary, but the point remains. It does not make financial sense for students who do not have the means to afford college to get a journalism degree at this university.
That is heartbreaking.
My time at Duquesne has exceeded my expectations in almost every area, and I’m not just saying to get highergrades, midterms are over I’m fine. I have been challenged, inspired and most importantly prepared to enter the workforce.
I feel that everyone should have the opportunities that I have been given.
Yet, the cost of school here is prohibitive to those who do not have the means to pay for college.
And now is the time to allow this initiative to take place.
Duquesne, which excels in so many areas, lacks diversity in various areas. Opening the door to students from every economic background will likely help increase diversity.
It is not out of the realm for the university to do something to bolster our national recognition. This is the same school that offered LeBron James’ 15-year-old son a scholarship to play basketball. What better way to turn heads toward the Bluff then by offering journalism students a debt-free opportunity.
What better way to honor the Spiritan tradition than by welcoming students from all economic backgrounds at the opportunity for an education.
Plus, it also helps that our President, Ken Gormley has a healthy respect for journalism as indicated in his scholastic focus on Watergate.
Which brings me to my second point.
The cost of education is not unique to Duquesne. The rising cost of education is, in a sense, gatekeeping those without means from various liberal art degrees. As students are gravitating toward fields that can eventually pay off their student loans, these fine art programs are being dominated by kids from wealthy backgrounds.
Reporting requires events to be observed through the lens of all people. We need a healthy dose of various perspectives to bring accurate and engaging information to the people.
There is a lot of discussion on how to “fix the media” or “how journalists regain back the public trust.” It has been my experience that when anything needs to be adjusted, the best way to do that is to go back to basics.
We bring in distinct and unique voices from all walks of life to tell the stories that people need and want to know.
Allowing students to obtain a degree from a prestigious university is a great start.