Board of Trustees speech
The Greek philosopher, Plato, and his pupil, Aristotle, did not see eye to eye on many things, but there was at least one thing upon which they agreed, as did all notable philosophers: Everything that exists is made of parts. Add or subtract one or another part and the thing may cease functioning, or it may become another thing entirely. All the parts are necessary, they all add up, they are all essential, and while the thing itself created the need for them, they make the thing what it is.
Tuition is just one part in the “thing” called education. It serves two purposes. The first is to provide the student with her education. The second is to compensate the school for that education, such that it can continue giving it to others. Hence without tuition, the school would not prosper or improve in quality of materials or faculty, and the students would have no manner of purchasing education in a society that requires it be purchased like any other commodity.
Hence, we have proven that tuition is necessary in our society as it is now. We have also pointed out that the students are another part of education, as is the school itself. But what is the nature of this relationship? The students attend the school, and in so doing, sustain it. The school provides the students with education, which increases their value in the job market, for, as my economics professor once told me in 2005, each year spent in higher education will increase one’s lifetime income by a million dollars.
So the student’s presence at the school is required for the school to make money, and the school’s presence on the student’s degree is required for the student to make money. And both of these outcomes are made possible by tuition.
Money is the arbiter of humanity’s endeavors, not humanity. This isn’t idealistic speechifying, this is the world as it actually is, and I do not contest that. Rather, I would ask you another question, a question that addresses the reality I just described, and that is the cardinal question today.
What happens when tuition is raised? Answering this question depends upon the recognition of newly discovered “parts” of what we think is education. The “tuition hike,” occurs as the result of another part, the “board of trustees,” acting under the influence, direct or indirect, of yet another part, “the state.” What is the relationship between these three parts? How do their proper function maintain that of the entire “thing” called education?
The state decides to cut funding to higher education. The board of trustees responds, by deciding to raise tuition. The tuition hike does three things. First, it makes state school less accessible to new students. Second, it makes paying for state school less manageable to current students. Third, it reduces the value of the education for graduate students when you consider that tuition increased 8.4% at public universities while increasing only 4% at private universities in 2011.
The graduated students won’t make as much money because their degrees will be worth less, and they will be saddled with exorbitant student debt. Therefore, the school can’t make as much money because fewer students can actively afford it. Logically, if the students can’t attend the school, the thing known as “education” is missing one of its key components, and should break down entirely. But the school can counter this, and does in spades, building shiny dorms and facilities, privatizing parts of the school like food, housing, and parking, accepting innumerable outside dollars, publicizing its land more than its curriculum, and relying solely on a student’s willingness to pay for whatever the school wants her to, once she’s signed her acceptance letter and her parent or guardian has cosigned the loans.
So, students continue to attend, and “education” retains its necessary parts. But what has the tuition hike done? The part of education called the “students” will struggle with jobs and loans to pay their bills while they take their courses during the day and into the night. A crushing yoke of debt will rest upon their shoulders for much of their journey into adulthood. And the degree they obtain will have all the applicability of an expired coupon in our current job market. Perhaps twenty years ago, this degree or that one would have been enough for a substantial job. Now, bachelors, masters, and doctors are often equally disenfranchised.
The parts of a thing make up the whole of it, and as I said, add or subtract one or another part and the thing may cease functioning, or it may become another thing entirely. Students, tuition, school, board of trustees…these are the active parts of education that are necessary in the world in which we live. Add the part called “tuition hike” and you endanger the whole of education. There will be no students, there will be no tuition, there will be no school, there will be no board of trustees. There will only be a corrupted circle of these, of cynically complacent bystanders—student, professor, staffmember, trustee—a merry-go-round spun round and round by The State, its inhabitants grasping for dead leaves that once grew on a tree of dreams.
Career, opportunity, ideas, stability, confidence, wisdom…These are the parts of another thing, a thing in which education itself is a part, without which it cannot exist, and to deny it is the ultimate crime of an adult. I am speaking, of course, of freedom. A tuition hike is an attack on education, and on the freedom of those who seek it. Since you have entered the field of education in any capacity, I believe that means you work for it. So attack freedom, and you attack yourselves.