Last week Representative Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, said she has "very little tolerance for people who tell me they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that."
Apparently Foxx subscribes to the conservative ideology of "pulling oneself up by their bootstraps" and an individual is solely responsible for the decisions they make in their life.
"We live in an opportunity society and people are forgetting that," Foxx said during a radio interview last week. "I remind folks all the time that the Declaration of Independence says "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
You don’t have that dumped in your lap."
Foxx shared her story of paying for tuition when she was an undergraduate during her time at the University of North Carolina.
"I went through school, I worked my way through, it took me seven years, I never borrowed a dime of money," Foxx said.
To make matters worse, Foxx currently is the Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education.
While it is admirable that Foxx was able to pay for her own education without having to take on student loans, the financing of higher education in the 1960s was drastically different than what exists today.
Foxx received a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina in 1968. While I could not find historical tuition rates for UNC, I was able to come across tuition rates for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which I believe to be a fairly comparable university.
Both UNC and UW are large public research universities, with fairly equal in-state tuition rates for 2012.
During the 1967-1968 academic year, the year that Foxx graduated from UNC, tuition, not including segregated fees, books, etc, was $301 for the entire year. Adjusted for inflation that amounts to around $2,070.
That sounds like a bargain compared to the $8,592 that UW-Madison currently has, a total of a 315 percent increase over the past 40 years.
The reality is that public universities used to be funded at levels unheard of today, and sadly those in power seem to not understand the new realities students have to face when deciding to pursue a degree.
When Federal Pell Grants were first instituted for the 1976-1977 school year, the average grant to students was $759, which fully covered the cost of tuition at Madison that year. Today the maximum amount, not the average, of the Pell Grant is $5,500, only 64 percent of the cost of tuition at Madison.
According to Education Trust, an organization dedicated to reforming the educational system, sixty percent of students who receive Pell Grants also take on student loans. This is double the rate those who do not receive grants.
All these factors are making it harder for students to achieve a college education, something that created the middle-class in this country, and it would appear the Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education could care less.
Students deserve better.