Letter to the editor:

Bryon Shingledecker

The American people have allowed the cost to attend college to become unaffordable. The dream of pursuing higher education is becoming unattainable even to those families that fall into the middle class. We are becoming the generation of the Billennial. At the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh students graduate with an average of $25,259 of debt. This in an astounding number considering at the same university 77 percent of graduates are slammed by debts similar to this total. I suppose we should be happy with the average debt considering that the average national college debt is $28,400, a 2 percent increase from one year previous. What has happened to our thirst for a better, more educated society? When did the pursuit of higher education get placed on the back burner, while things such as entertainment take front and center? For example, in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker is executing a $300 million cut to the UW System while granting $200 million for a new arena in Milwaukee. The generations before us have failed the education system. Every year it becomes more expensive for us to receive a higher education, while, ironically, our nation slips farther and farther down the global education ladder. It saddens me to know that the American people care more about the latest destroyed celebrity marriage than the tattered books and broken facilities that our students learn in. The new for-profit education industry is crippling anyone who wants to reach for higher levels of education by taking arms and legs from us just to attend a four year university. Academia charges students for books, food, housing, printing and for each credit we take, just to name a few things. For example, at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh takes $150 out of our pockets as a penalty if we don’t live in their unaffordable housing. That $150 dollars is also known as Titan Dollars. There are roughly two million high school graduates ever year who crave higher education. That means that on average 68 percent of all high school graduates attempt to further their learning. Imagine that each student represents a grain of sand on a beach. In this day and age higher education works by allowing only small shovels full of this “sand” to ever leave the beach. This sand is then poured into the same open palm that steals our tuition money. As the shovel slowly pours out grains of sand, some slip through academia’s fingers while few grains remain safe. Each grain has the potential to be the next Einstein or president but may never get the chance due to this financial oppression. I will graduate from this university more in debt than any generation before me, and the community wants us to accept this? Millennials are being financially pickpocketed and strong-armed by crooks in suits who keep one guiding hand on our shoulder and the other in our wallets. I blame this on all of those before us who have let the glowing beacon of education become a tarnished symbol for profit. In 1989 the state of Wisconsin’s taxpayers accounted for 60 percent of the money that is funded to keep college economical. Today taxpayers account for a meager 19 percent. The remaining 19 percent will be decimated once Walker’s budget cuts go into effect. How much more weight can be placed on the students’ backs before we are broken? Is that extra tax too much for the people to bare to ensure that those precious grains don’t fall back on the beach only to be washed away by the unrelenting waves of debt and poverty? Our president has suggested some solutions to this crisis by trying to expand on the “Tennessee Promise”, which was originally proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam. This promise grants students the ability to get two years of community college for free, by allocating $3,800 to their schooling. Although this is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough. We must regulate how schools are generating profit, to ensure it is done ethically and increase civic participation to get the people to back community supported higher education. I understand, that some people feel that our generation thinks it’s entitled to anything and everything, but this is incorrect. We are willing to work hard for our schooling and to get good grades. All we ask for in return is a fair shot at the same affordable education those before us received. It would be magnificent to see college students being able to afford and attend school by just working one full-time job in the summer. By making higher education more affordable we are making the first real progress on resuscitating the American dream. In summary, Millennials are fed up with being told that we lack the conviction to solve problems around us. Let this be a reminder that we are no longer going to allow our nation to sleep at the wheel. We will no longer be treated as dollar signs. We are going to take control of our country and begin to right the wrongs of those who have failed before us. Mark my words, we will not be crushed by this debt. We will use its weight to our advantage propelling ourselves out of this age of Billennials while returning balance to this great nation from sea to shining sea.