Opinion: College Education or Capitalist Exploitation?
Students for profit: the reality behind the US higher education system
“Your billing statement is now available online. Please log into Eagle Service to make a payment, view your account activity and download your PDF billing statement.”
As a student of American University, you will receive this email when your payment is due. If you fail to comply with it, you will be fined. This isn’t just AU — this is how the higher education system operates in America.
Getting a college education isn’t a public good anymore; it is a privilege. Colleges are in never-ending competition with one another, and students are the consumers. Nowadays, education is an investment to improve the human stock by training them for work. We often hear how a college education is a necessity to make money and get a job in the future. On top of that, we are told how much a school’s acceptance rate determines our intelligence. We question whether we are “worthy” enough to receive an education.
We all know how colleges accomplish this. As they send you countless emails telling you about their school’s generous financial aid or how their study abroad program has the highest ratings, they make it sound as if they are offering you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Each one sounds better than the previous, sending you into a spiral of indecision. Each makes you feel wanted, making you think you can get the best education there.
This is how the cycle of capitalism works.
As AU President Sylvia Burwell makes nearly $1 million per year, the underpaid staff union goes on strike during Welcome Week. Student cries intensify every day, trying to pay off our loans, while tuition that’s already above the national average increases. The coronavirus pandemic doesn’t exist anymore: the University ceases to provide isolation housing. Students are left to self-isolate in their dorms with no assistance from the University. Tough luck. The Bridge Cafe loses its name as one of the only sanctuary spaces for people of color on campus; music and the events held become white-centered.
AU ranks eighth in the U.S. for students with learning disabilities as ASAC’s lengthy and invasive application process is insufficient to meet the needs of the disabled community. Students’ health concerns are futile: there’s no need to launch an investigation after hearing countless mold concerns from McDowell Hall residents, which is one of the lowest-priced buildings on campus.
The list could go on and on, but one thing is for sure: the students are the profit — as long as you pay the money, as long as you take out the loans, as long as you contribute to the ratings.
Colleges are trained to make students appear like their number one priority when this is not the case. College isn’t a place where you discover yourself like it’s advertised: it is a place where students drown in debt and loans. It’s a place that exploits students and makes them prisoners of addiction and envy. It’s a place where the diploma you receive determines your rank in society’s hierarchy.
It’s important to distinguish the truth from the fabrications that are told to us about the U.S higher education system. Whether it’s AU or any other college, the narrative is the same.
President Sylvia Burwell likes to promote the school’s motto as “change can’t wait,” but where is the so-called change when students need it the most?
Meliha Ural is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and School of Communication and a columnist for the Eagle.