A Glimpse into the College Entitlement Mentality

31206844_MLShould a college education be a handout or something earned?

A recent feature in The New Yorker Magazine provides a sobering glimpse of things to come if advocates of “free college” get their way.

In his feature article “The Big Uneasy,” author Nathan Heller interviewed several Oberlin College students who demanded, among other things, the suspension of any grades below C so they could devote more time to on-campus activism (driving some 40 minutes to protest in Cleveland proved too burdensome).

About 85 percent of Oberlin students receive financial aid from federal, state, and local sources to attend this progressive liberal arts college, amounting to nearly $24,000 per student. About half of those funds come from the federal government.

Nationwide, just 33 percent of Americans have four-year college degrees. The vast majority of adults are slogging away at their jobs day-in and day-out to pay the taxes that subsidize college students, who are effectively absent from the economy for four to six years (more if they pursue graduate studies).

And what does this “investment” yield for Jane and Joe taxpayer? Apparently, far too many undergraduates who think that they are entitled to do whatever they want, whenever they want paid for by the sacrifices of others.

When asked about her post-graduation plans, Oberlin student government co-liaison and campus activist Megan Bautista stated, “Just getting the eff out of America. It’s a sinking ship.”

Well, bon voyage to Bautista and undergraduates like her. No doubt their acute sense of social justice will motivate them to pay back all the subsidized handouts they received from us bourgeoisie before departing.

Modern-day campus activists may romanticize their Vietnam War-era predecessors, but the real heroes are the Veterans, most of whom did not have trust funds or parents wealthy enough to buy their way out of the draft—so they could attend college, fight “the man,” then turn around and join him for the right price years later.

There’s a better way to support undergraduate education without encouraging this kind of entitlement mentality: make college an earned benefit.

This month marks the 72nd anniversary of what is now known as the G.I. Bill. Today, seven education benefit programs are helping more than 1 million Veterans, Servicemembers, Reservists, and eligible family members earn their college degrees, specialty certifications, and job training.

In spite of numerous challenges, including deployments that can last up to 13 months, nearly 60 percent of student veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan War generation complete their four-year college degrees within five years. Students like Leslie Lingo.

After serving in the U.S. Army, Lingo enrolled in Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where she just completed her bachelor’s degree in social work. Not only is Lingo a single mom, she is also an active member of her local Student Veterans of America chapter. Her advice for success in college:

“Learn how to effectively listen…By listening you learn something new, whether positive or negative, and this leads to progress.” Lingo adds, “Have humility and resilience, while always being comfortable outside of your comfort zone – taking calculated risks that push you to your limits will help you progress to the next level.”

We value what we earn and in turn better appreciate the sacrifices others make on our behalf.

Earned benefits don’t have to take the form of military service, either. Businesses could fund performance grants for future employees, who could attend class and work part-time in exchange for a specified time commitment after graduation. Any number of such private and non-profit apprenticeship performance arrangements could be created for fields requiring postsecondary certificates or degrees.

The GI Bill shows that earned college benefits beat hand-outs hands down.

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For the authoritative examination of the history and impact of the U.S. Department of Education and the need for innovative reforms based on educational choice and opportunity, see the Independent Institute’s widely acclaimed book, Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children, by Vicki E. Alger.

Vicki E, Alger is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and Senior Fellow and Director of the Women for School Choice Project at the Independent Women’s Forum. She is the author of the Independent book, Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children.
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