Teach-In for Education
The ASUCI National Branch members Aaron Patch and Kristine Jermakian gave a presentation on the privatization of public education last Wednesday, Jan. 22 during ASUCI’s first Teach-In event of the year.
The presentation explained the history of the privatization of public education, education reforms and the power that students have to change the trends of privatization. ASUCI’s National Branch lobbies congress and other important representatives at the national levels of government.
There is currently $1.2 trillion in student debt; that is more than credit card debt or automobile debt. On average, each student who takes out loans will graduate with more than $25,000 in debt. One in five student borrowers default on their loans. According to Jermakian, in the past 10 years, “student loan debt has increased about four times.”
The presentation described that there are many reasons people go to college. Some go to become eligible for better jobs with higher pay. Some go to college because it is the thing to do. Education is a great equalizer in a society and a higher education opens doorways to a better future.
Historically, the United States has worked to improve access to education. A few examples of how education reform improves access to quality education were discussed. The Morrill Act of 1862 was a land grant that provided federal land for education in the western states. After the Civil War, there was the establishment of historically black colleges, which opened education to African Americans. In 1944, the Veterans Readjustment Act, better known as the GI bill was passed. The GI bill guaranteed an education for returning veterans should they want it. The GI bill continues to help veterans on UCI’s campus today.
Despite all of these reforms, there has been a shift in education reforms since the 1980s toward privatization. It began with tax cuts. A decrease in tax revenue is an indirect decrease in overall funding. A decrease in revenue leads to a decrease in education funding. The increase in student loans is inversely proportional to the decrease in state education funding. Thus, decrease in education funding equates to an increase in tuition. When there is less state funding and therefore an increase in tuition, students turn toward the private sector to finance their education and take out loans ¾ this is the cycle of privatization.
The presentation argued that there is a divide in American society about the role of education. Some argue that it is a public good, necessary for the health of a democracy; others argue that education is a private commodity, beneficial to the individual.
Students have the power to decrease tuition and to create better education policy, encouraged the presenters. The first way is through voting. By voting in candidates who care about higher education, students have a voice in our republic. Students can also protest and demand a higher quality education that costs less.
The National Branch will be hosting other Teach-In’s throughout winter quarter. For more information on upcoming ASUCI events, visit their webpage.