The cost of education is more than just money

Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor

Sept. 1, 2022

It was one of those miserably hot days in Hemland, Afghanistan, as my unit was on a foot patrol. Our mission was to provide support to the Afghan Army by integrating within their squad and establishing a presence in our area of operation. It was a pretty standard mission, one we had done many times before.

It was business as usual, until I heard a sound every marine loathes.

An explosion erupted about 70 yards away. Someone in the front of formation had stepped on a pressure plate that set off an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). From there, chaos ensued.

Your mind goes to really strange places when someone tries to kill you. There’s an unequal marriage of confusion, anger and fear that depends on the immediate severity of the conditions. It gives your anxiety, anxiety. Your vision gets narrow, your breathing speeds up and your heart starts beating in your temples.

Fortunately for us, the IED was neither potent nor crafted well. There was not an ambush, follow up IEDS or, thankfully, any casualties.

However, a fellow marine and friend of mine had received multiple pieces of shrapnel that pierced the right side of his body; he had wounds in his extremities and parts of his face.

We held a protective perimeter around the wounded marine as we waited for a medical extraction. As we waited, my buddy did what every marine innately does when facing a traumatic experience: They use dark humor to cope.

I’ll never forget what he said as we waited for the Osprey to fly him to safety. His tone inflected in a way to truly express his sarcastic, but very real, disdain for the situation.

“Hey, at least I’m getting my college paid for,” he said.

There is often truth said in jest, and it begs the question — is this the cost of a college education? Going to a foreign country and possibly facing unbelievable harm in order to have a chance to participate in higher education?

The price of education has risen so steeply that it is becoming nearly off limits for a section of the population. As the deterioration of the education system becomes more apparent, we are starting to see the residual effects. We live in a time where people believe that the world is flat, that vaccines are government tracking devices and that a former dead senator is leading a behind-the-scenes revolution against evil actors in our government.

Student debt is crippling a generation. Those who do not have the initial means to pay for education will find themselves burdened with an astronomical amount of debt. The process in which a person can obtain financial aid is purposely complex.

After the military and before I went back to school, I worked at a car dealership. If an 18-year-old, who had no real work or credit history, walked into my office and asked for a vehicle loan, they would have been laughed out of the building. There was no way a bank would take on that type of risk. It would be fiscally irresponsible.

Yet these student loan companies have no problem dishing out loads of cash to this vulnerable and unknowing demographic. They do not carry any real risk when it comes to giving loans because student loans are with you until you die. They are virtually impossible to declare in bankruptcy.

Once you sign for those loans, no matter the outcome or the circumstances, those loans stay with you forever.

We are making higher education unattainable and thus creating an anti-intellectualism narrative that is plaguing this country. While there has always been an ostentatious perception when it comes to those with degrees, this divide is driving a force further separating Americans from one another.

Adding almost prohibitive limitations through cost is going to cause irreversible damage down the road. There is nothing wrong with not going to college, as there are plenty of trade schools where you can make a comfortable living and incur little to no debt. However, by limiting certain professions or avenues of profession to only those whose parents can afford it, we’re depriving our society of the country’s truly most gifted, while decreasing the quality by lessening the diversity of those in said field.

We are becoming dangerously close to having a society whose education and expertise comes from Netflix documentaries and YouTube videos.

I know the main question of those that oppose lessening the burden of their fellow Americans from the predatory cost of higher education and student loans is: Who is going to pay for it?

In 2008, when major financial institutions crashed the housing market due to their own recklessness and unethical behavior, they were able to get, essentially, a blank check from Congress.

When the airlines went bankrupt, Congress gave them a blank check, then the airlines went bankrupt again — yet they were given another blank check.

Or how about the robust defense budget that accounts for over half of our entire budget? They can’t even win a war.

How about we take money from the defense budget and instead of investing it in killing people across the globe, we invest in our own people?

Education should be available for everyone.

We, as a society, need to really evaluate our priorities before our country ends up in a place worse than it is now.