Elizabeth Pauley recently wrote a blog post, How Boston and Kalamazoo, MI are keeping “The Promise” . She describes initiatives in these two cities that are fighting to get more students to graduate from college. The thing that struck me most about her post was the use of the word “promise” and the implications that carries. Whether it’s to help your some-day children have a better future or to create a competitive America on a global scale, education is supposed to be The Great Equalizer, accessible to all. But we have created a society in which a college degree is so vital, yet incredibly difficult to obtain, especially for those in the middle or working class. It’s a simple supply and demand model in which universities can charge ridiculous prices that leave many students graduating in debt. The difference is that in economic markets, there is government regulation to ensure that prices are reasonable for both parties; a system which our government has just recently begun to apply to education.
In this day and age, higher education needs to be accessible to everyone if we can reasonably expect people to participate in the labor force to the best of their abilities. Shouldn’t it be in the federal government’s best interest to help ensure this? Instead our country is in a place where people are in awe when programs like the Kalamazoo Promise or Success Boston are able to provide an affordable education, which says something about the education system we have created. The world now is a very different place than it was when universities first began (in the 6 th century AD, for the record). Higher education is no longer a luxury reserved for the elite. We need as many innovative and collaborative thinkers in the work force as possible, and I believe it is our government’s job to help make that happen.
So for now, it seems that small-scale privately funded projects like the Kalamazoo Promise truly are amazing feats to be recognized. They are doing what universities and governments have failed to do. Whether we will be able to implement strategies and principles such as are utilized in the Kalamazoo Promise and Success Boston on a national scale remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain; to continue to market education as The Great Equalizer without also offering equal opportunity for it is to break our promise.
Katharine Bohrs is a graduate of Brookline High School and a current sophomore at George Washington University. She is an intended Sociology major with a double minor in Spanish and Statistics, and hopes to use these skills to delve into a career in teaching, education research, or both. She interned with the Aspire Institute in Summer 2012.