So I realize there hasn’t been anything new in a while. This is mostly due to a killer finals week coupled with my motivation dropping oh so very low after finding out last week I got accepted to an Ecuador volunteer program with Pangea World Service Team. Yesterday’s news that I was accepted to a study abroad program at St Peter’s College of Oxford University may well be the last blow to any chance I had of being able to focus and pay attention in the rest of this year’s classes. Seriously, try sitting in an anthropology class that references the Ecuadorian Galapagos Island finches or some Oxford Research Journal and tell me that your mind doesnt wander past the point of learning. But seeing as how I am sitting in my room, bored waiting for Spring Break to start, I thought this would be a good time to sit back and type something new.
A few weeks ago in my Ecological Issues class (which is taught by the most delightfully liberal British man you will ever meet), I had a term introduced to me that I had never really thought of before: Social Capital. Wikipedia says it is a”sociological concept which refers to the value of social relations and the role of cooperation and confidence to get collective or economic results“. Ignoring all that technical wording, I took it to basically mean it is the belief that it is more important to invest in the welfare of society as a whole than trying to acquire things just for yourself. And my professor didn’t think that Americans do this enough. We don’t watch out for each other like we should, at least in terms of finance and wealth. I am sure most people are well aware of this notion by now, what with the whole “Occupy” movement that has spent the past months sweeping the country and even the world.
I thought it was an interesting idea, but didn’t think much more about it until today when I spent a solid 3 hours fighting with the “Federal Application for Financial Student Aid” (or something like that, everyone calls it the FAFSA because we hate it so much we don’t care if we call it by its proper name.) It took me nearly half an hour just to convince them I was a real person. Then at the end I find out that even though I live dangerously close to the poverty line and basically support myself by paying my own tuition and housing, I will be eligible for less aid this year because the government has redefined what it means to be living in poverty and in need of financial aid. But the funny thing is – I don’t feel richer because I technically am now farther away from some arbitrary wealth status. Things havent gotten cheaper and indeed to go along with less financial aid, tuition is going UP. This made me start thinking about that whole social capital thing again…
At this point in my life, I feel like I can do whatever I want – I want to bust out into the world and make a difference and live a crazy awesome life and learn all I can about the world we live in. But college costs money and I end up getting burdened with things like student loans as a result of ridiculous tuition rates (or even more ridiculous book prices!) that pretty much guarantee most of us will start our careers and adult lives in debt and struggling to get ahead. I don’t get the most out of my college education if I am working two jobs to support it, and even international volunteering costs money I don’t have (yeah, i know, i said i was going to Oxford – like i said, two jobs bitches).
It’s not fair that as youth, when we feel we can do the most good in the world, we are burdened with ridiculous prices for college.
And yet people complain America is falling behind in educational standards – well, ever wonder why? It’s because most other countries don’t bankrupt their students with college costs and anyone of ability can attend a university. I know this is going to sound crazy, but I for one wouldn’t mind paying higher taxes when I’m older if that means the government will help me a lot more as a student – it balences out doesn’t it? Invest in us as youth and as future contributors to our nation, help us get through college with less debt and more sanity, and we will repay the government later. Sounds good to me. I know it wouldn’t be a perfect system – but nothing in the government is a perfect system. Our current system sure isn’t perfect either – USA Today says 2/3 of our 20-something kids are in debt, mostly all of it due to student loans. Just pay a little more attention to the social capital of America and maybe we can start doing better as a country.
Quoting the USA Today article Young People Struggle to Deal with the Kiss of Debt “It’s the single greatest problem facing this generation”
I’m the first to admit I’m not sure the best way to remedy this debt situation is, I don’t like or understand politics and economics. I’m just sayin’ get your shit together America – stop cutting student aid, stop increasing tuition, and stop expecting so much [money] out of kids trying to get their lives going. *Or at least stop expecting us to settle down right out of college, that’s just when we get a chance to start living! (but that is a whole different issue I guess.)