Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Drawing Out The Assignment
By Parisa Esmaili

The assignment, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As second-graders eagerly pull out their colored pencils and crayons from their clear pencil boxes, they fill their blank manila paper with dreams of becoming doctors, astronauts, actors and actresses, singers, and, yes, even some young aspiring politicians. Flash-forward 12-15 years and you’ll find many of those eager hooligans questioning whom they want to be versus how much they can afford to be.

Thanks to the rise and intention of “making education important” since the late 1970s and early 1980s, colleges have continued to jack up the prices of already hefty school tuitions.

For example, since 1990, expenses of a private four-year college have risen 51.1 percent, according to YouthNoise.com. As for public colleges, the expenses have risen almost 60 percent. By the time students receive that gold emblem special matted degree stamped, signed, and sealed, many of them will be $20,000 or more in debt. If they can afford to make it that far. Those numbers do not even begin to encompass the idea of law, medical, or graduate school.

I remember being in second grade and asked the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answer? A lawyer. So here I was drawing, at seven years old, a picture of me dressed in business attire and my mouth wide open. Slightly above my mouth was a “talking bubble” with dark lines up and down that emphasized tone, quality, and aggression.

I had dreams of being a lawyer since I was four, until I hit the age of practicality and realistically affording law school. Not to mention, as I got older I realized the patience, diligence, and audacity it took to be a lawyer. I definitely did not fit that “role.”

For in-state residents at public law schools, students are paying 267 percent more than in 1990, according to information by John Sebert, consultant on legal education to the American Bar Association. For nonresidents, public law school costs have soared by 197 percent. Private tuition since 1990 has risen by 130 percent. Tuition in 2004 at public law schools for in-state residents averaged $11,860 and $21,905 for nonresidents, and at private schools, tuition was $26,952.

I have a few friends who have changed their majors at least three times since they began college simply because they will not make enough money in whatever profession they would pursue after graduating. They often tell me the amount of money they took out in loans for three years nearly triples the amount they would make in their first years after college. There is no way they could afford to pay for the education in order to have the profession. I also have friends who changed their majors because what they wanted to be is feasibly impractical. Even with loans, scholarships, grants, and the money they save personally, graduate school and becoming an astronaut or doctor will forever remain a dream.

We were taught to dream big, shoot for the stars, or that we could be whatever we want, as long as we put our mind to it. Whoever decided that these thought provoking, awe inspiring ideas would be the “words of wisdom” to pass along through our years of education got it all wrong. Nowadays, the words of wisdom should be, “shoot for what you can afford,” or, “you can be whatever you want, just as long as you make a lot of money doing it.”

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