A college education is one of the most precious things we can obtain. It is instrumental in self-betterment and financial stability. A good education is perhaps the best way for someone to pull themselves out of poverty.
So it is such a shame that the massive financial costs of college provide a barrier to those who would benefit from it the most, and leave many more in crippling debt. That’s why it was so refreshing to see it discussed publicly on Long Beach State’s Free Speech Lawn Wednesday.
The discussion on the lawn was attended by a few dozen students and clubs like the Democratic Socialists of America and the Students for Quality Education.
Where most of these Free Speech Lawn events are characterized by protestors with gargantuan, incendiary, pictures of fetuses or fire-and-brimstone preachers screaming about hellfire. It was heartening to see actual, constructive, civil discussion on a lawn that I associate with averting my gaze and hurriedly walking away.
This issue affects almost every one of us, it’s a barrier that prevents many people from getting the education that could change their lives.
The total debt from all the student loans in this country was $1.41 trillion in 2019. Disturbingly, these loans are very easy to get for students and their costs can quickly spiral out of control.
The threat of this debt is terrifying, even if everything goes right, many will be paying it off for most of their professional lives.
Fourth-year Chicano-Latino studies major Nathan Carbajal, one of the main speakers explained his support for more accessible education.
“In any other country, a public education would be free,” Carbajal said. “We are [working] for an accessible CSU”
During a speech by Carbajal, an onlooker took issue with his statements about marginalized people.
“What about Jesus Christ?” shouted fourth-year religious studies major Jose Espinoza.
The speaker was initially taken aback but continued unabated.
Espinoza is a campus fixture often voicing his support for politically conservative and pro-life causes.
Espinoza initially took issue with the exclusion of pro-life and Christian conservative students from Carbajal’s description of marginalized people but was also dubious of the promise of a free college.
“There is no such thing as college being free … we all have to pay,” Espinoza said. “That’s not the government’s responsibility to pay… even if students are struggling.”
It is important that ideas, even ideas that we strongly agree with, see opposition. It is heartening to see something as critically important as the prospect of free college debated in a public forum.
Carbajal took it all in stride.
“I guess his interests and my interest are not on the same level,” he said. “We’ll just keep organizing and pushing for what we think is just.”