Tuition and Freedom

Rachel Pagano’s recent column in The Campus is well worth a read.  An excerpt:

In economic terms we [college graduates] will be in the same predicament as the house owners. We will have spent an enormous amount of money on something which has a market value far less than what we paid for it. It would be a sad commencement to life after college if we resent the education needed to make us free. This is a problem exaggerated by the less than robust nature of the American economy and the enormous debt which America has accrued. Thus, to make America a land of opportunity both in theory and practice we must all save more so that we can make it possible for not only ourselves but for our children to be a part of the history of opportunity. And colleges must be aware that since a liberal arts education is a human good, freedom of the mind should not be priced so that it forces those seeking it to place themselves in bondage.

To be clear, I think her argument for American exceptionalism in the first part of her column is quite simplistic. Also, from a purely economic point of view, I’m not sure that Middlebury isn’t worth the money: I would guess that eventually, most Middlebury alumni earn back their tuition and then some.

But her overall point, that we shouldn’t let rising tuition and the terrible economy destroy learning for learning’s sake, is really important to consider.  Yes, we should think about jobs, the practical real world and helping others. But we’re also here to liberate ourselves.

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