Editorial 2/17: Education is a right, not a luxury

The knowledge gap hypothesis suggests that education is like any other commodity and that it is distributed unequally throughout society. Those who were born in affluent families have access to a wider array of information, have more resources available to them, and generally attend college at significantly higher rates than those who were born in low-income households. This results in a cycle of poverty: those who are experience financial difficulties are poorly educated, and therefore have limited career opportunities and remain in poverty. Their children are sent through this same cycle, forever dividing the “haves” from the “have nots.”

Republicans and Democrats disagree on a broad range of topics (which this election has proven), but nearly everyone can agree that having a well-educated country is essential to succeeding in a global economy. The Griffin strongly believes that every person should be entitled to the gift that all of Canisius has been afforded, the gift of education. That’s why we are extremely disappointed with President Hurley’s recent email, which encourages students to oppose the Excelsior Scholarship program proposed by N.Y. State Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Let us be clear, The Griffin  is not suggesting that you support the Excelsior Scholarship. We understand that affordable education is a complicated issue and finding a “perfect” solution to the growing education inequality in America is not easy. However, we are stating that President Hurley’s email showed how incredibly out-of-touch Hurley is with the students and alumni of this College. As we have reminded administration far too many times this semester, a Jesuit institution is supposed to support the enhancement of its communities. Especially those who need it most.

As said in Proverbs 14:31,“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”

We need to give poor Americans the ability to better themselves and their families. As men and women with and for others, we need to prioritize inclusive education above our own profits.

The alumni and students dissenting the call-to-action in Hurley’s email seem to have the same two concerns: that a Jesuit education should be promoting initiatives that will produce greater education opportunities to those who would not otherwise support it, and that administration is seemingly oblivious to the plights of its students. In the humble opinion of the staff at The Griffin, it seems unwise to ask those who are in massive amounts of debt to support initiatives that would prevent others from accumulating similar financial issues.

This has not been the first time that Canisius’ administration has proved to be out-of-touch with the reality of the debt that its students incur.

Canisius and the Department of Education state that the average student will leave Canisius with $25,000 of debt. However, this number only accounts for the amount of federal loans taken out by students. When you include private loans, the average amount of debt rises to nearly $41,000.

In 2016, former Griffin Editor-in-Chief CJ Gates interviewed Dr. Mangione about student debt at Canisius. When asked about how students grow to take on so much debt, she said, “Sometimes it’s about personal lifestyle, so they’re eligible for the loan, they don’t really need it for tuition costs. But they decide they’d rather have a newer car rather than an older car, or they’d rather live in a more expensive place than a less expensive place.”

While some students may choose to take out loans to afford more luxurious goods, many find taking out loans a necessary evil in order to afford an education that has a $34,690 price tag.

Of course, Canisius does offer many generous scholarships and financial aid opportunities for students to make attending the school cheaper. However, this still leaves students with, on average, over $16,000 to pay annually, which is no small price, especially for some students who have families that make an annual income of less than double that amount.

In President Hurley’s email, he encouraged students to instead support initiatives that would increase investment in Tuition Assistance Programs (TAP). Currently, a prospective Canisius student who has a family of 5 that makes $30,000 annually (just a bit above poverty level) is eligible for approximately $4,870 in annual aid from TAP, according to the Higher Education Services Corporation’s TAP estimator.

Even if that amount was to double, due to greater investments in the program, that would still not be enough to cover the expenses of the College, especially if the student has less money in scholarships or chooses to be a resident. Clearly, just investing in TAP will not solve the incredible student debt problem that we have in America and the state of New York.

On Governor Cuomo’s website, he states that “a college education is not a luxury – it is an absolute necessity for any chance at economic mobility, and with these first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarships, we’re providing the opportunity for New Yorkers to succeed, no matter what zip code they come from and without the anchor of student debt weighing them down.”

The Griffin’s Editorial Board agrees with the heart of this message: that college education is not a luxury that should only be afforded to those who can afford it. No matter if you’re black, brown, or white, yellow or in-between, no matter if you’re poor, have mental or physical disabilities or are able-bodied, you have the right to an education.

We at The Griffin love Canisius, despite our seemingly ever-present criticism of administration. We are thankful for the opportunities afforded to us by the college and grateful to be developing our mind, body and soul under the instruction of some incredibly talented and passionate professionals. But with the education we have been given, it is our duty to question authority when necessary and represent the voices of those who are not able to speak for themselves.

The longevity of the College is important to us. We don’t want to see Canisius close its doors or deprive future students a Canisius education. However, we are confident that the College can strategize in a market that gives students the opportunity to go to state school for free.

Many countries in Europe offer free public college for EU students and still have plenty of private institutions that thrive in the market because of their unique appeal. Of course, the American higher-education system is different than what is set up abroad, but we cannot dismiss the advancements made by other countries and assume that we are not capable of similar success in America.

If President Hurley would have offered alternatives to support the viability of Canisius that didn’t require dismissing a proposal for free education, maybe students would have been more responsive. The Griffin believes that most of Canisius’ students and alumni would try (within their means) to support Canisius, but that doesn’t mean they want to or should oppose programs that have the potential to address and solve education inequality in America.

In our last editorial, titled “Next Steps,” we addressed President Hurley’s email response to our criticism of his silence regarding President Trump’s Immigration Ban. When he finally chose to speak up, we applauded his efforts. However, his actions this week suggest that his “progress” was not made because he stands with oppressed groups, but because he wants to protect his reputation and avoid criticism. The question posed before still remains: Is Hurley going to prove to be a man that stands with others, or with himself?

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