The Daily Northwestern

Watters: Obama’s plan for education is halfway there

Arabella Watters

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






I believe wholeheartedly in the tired adage that knowledge is power. The power of education, at its most visceral level, has the ability to be transformative and transporting.

Both public and private education should be eternally available to all legal citizens of the United States, especially at the higher level.

However, education should not take precedence over keeping one’s financial head above water. Luckily, America’s public education system is one of the world’s most accessible. Unfortunately, much of America is also financially ignorant or overly idealistic.

After all, this is the land of opportunity; however, given the state of the economy, there is no extra room for the debt caused by overdrawn student loans and attendance of universities outside of a person’s fiscal capabilities.

A study by the Project on Student Debt reported that on average, students graduate from college $25,250 in debt with more than $4,000 owed on credit cards.

Additionally, for the first time in history, yearly student loans topped $110 billion in 2011 as total outstanding debt capped off at $1 trillion. In 2010, the financial aid office reported that the average debt of a Northwestern graduate is around $18,393.

In comparision to the national average this number seems low, yet it is still crippling both to recent graduates and to the economy as a whole.

Recently, President Obama has been adamant in his standpoint that while higher education should still remain accessible, universities should be more transparent in their disclosure of the full cost of an education. He suggests reducing funding to universities that are inefficient in their aid plans and shifting it to institutions with better finacial management.

The Obama administration has also proposed creating “scorecards,” which would compare statistics, graduation rates and estimates of true costs and debts incurred during a student’s four years on campus.

Although a college education offers distinctive advantages and opens a myriad of doors into the world of employment, a first-rate education should not come at the price of a hindering debt.

An education can open doors, but those openings will be as inconsequential as cracks if students are forced to move home and use their income to pay back loans.

Giving explicit details about the kind of debt that can and will be incurred at college is an effective policy.

Hopefully it will be an eye opener to the majority of the American population who have not come to realize that they simply cannot afford the substantial costs of attending a private university.

However, I don’t support the other half of Obama’s plan, which proposes an $8 billion program that would train community college students to work in competitive sectors.

The economy does not need more government spending on unsubstantiated training programs in the academic sector and the workforce.

People are capable of learning basic life skills without the government spending ridiculous, inflated amounts of money.

College students don’t need programs to train them how to work efficiently or enter the job sector. What they do need is to become educated in financial basics and common sense.

Financial planning is not a no-brainer by any means. The recession is immensely draining most of the United States, and the government should not be wasting more money on overly extensive training programs.

Though it is tantalizing to attend a prestigious private university to benefit from the clout of the name, it would be exponentially more beneficial in the long run to graduate from a public school debt-free.

The Obama administration should continue to try to pass policies promoting transparency within the financial sector of education.

However, they should stop with the continuous attempts for workforce stimulus through training programs.

If paying back college loans is a poor use of money, then using government funds for employment training programs is an utter waste.

Arabella Watters is a Medill freshman. She can be reached at arabellawatters@yahoo.com

All opinions expressed in this column are solely the opinions of the columnist and do not reflect the views of The Daily Northwestern. If you would like to respond to the column, you may comment below, email the columnist or submit a 300-word letter to the editor to forum@dailynorthwestern.com.

Comments