To the editor:
It should come as no surprise to most that college tuition rates have been rising steadily over the last 20 years, with most public institutions currently charging students nearly four times more than they were in the late '90s. Apart from impacting the financial futures of young people nationwide, high college costs have been detrimental to their lives as a whole, forcing many graduates to put off major life plans, such as buying a home, in order to repay their student loans. These decisions have also had an effect on the already weak U.S. economy, only contributing to an unstable real estate market and consistently fluctuating unemployment levels. Although the government has been working steadily to alleviate some of these burdens, alternative solutions must be considered in order to rescue America's youth from a lifetime of debt to their respective alma maters.
In an effort to make the attainment of a degree more affordable for all, Congress passed legislation in 2008 aimed at increasing Pell Grant Awards, condensing the application process for federal aid and encouraging all schools to post net price calculators on their websites. Although these improvements certainly helped, they by no means came close to covering even half of a typical college student's expenses, or deterring institutions from continuing to elevate fees — without any particular explanation to the general public. This, along with a lack of active interest from the American people as a whole, are the largest obstacles currently prohibiting any "real" change from taking place.
The time has come for students and their parents, both incapable and unwilling of paying an exorbitant price for higher education, to take a stand and make their voices heard. Whether it be through a formal letter to a particular university, a signature on a petition or even participation in an event organized by an activist group, like Occupy Colleges, there is no better method for conveying a message than through bold, thought-provoking action. In addition, more pressure should also be placed on the government to provide innovative options for low-income individuals to pursue a course of study, including the expansion of rigorous online programs and nonprofit institutions.
Currently, Occupy Colleges is working to gather signatures for a "no cuts no compromises" petition aimed at encouraging governors of all 50 states to commit toward refraining from making any cuts in higher education this year. As a member of the class of 2012, confronting the stress brought on by the hefty price tag that comes included with each acceptance letter, I commit to standing with the 99 percent and demanding an end to overpriced dreams.