Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2014

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Where I Stand: Sun Youth Forum:

Investment in higher ed is needed

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About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 56th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 20. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A representative was chosen from each group to write a column about the students’ findings. Samuel Yoon of Advanced Technologies Academy writes about issues covered by his group, America.

“I don’t want to work until I’m 80 to send you to college,” my mom said. There is no doubt that education, especially higher education, in America finds itself in serious trouble.

Between 2009 and 2010, students were horrified to see a 112 percent hike in the cost of tuition for bachelor’s degrees. For many students, pursuing higher education is akin to taking out a mortgage.

In America, education has shifted from being a publicly funded good to a privately acquired commodity. It has been a nationwide challenge of mind-boggling proportions.

Politicians promise it, and our economy prays for it. Consensus is a coveted word in the modern American political lexicon. On Nov. 20, some high school students attending the Sun Youth Forum found the consensus that has been eluding our nation’s leaders. Students with ideas as diverse as their backgrounds wholeheartedly embraced the great American phrase “I think we can agree on that.”

Tomorrow’s policymakers came together to propose answers to some of the nation’s most serious questions, ranging from alternative energy to foreign policy.

However, one idea consistently appeared as the issue closest to the hearts and minds of the nation’s future leaders: Education should be among the top of America’s priorities. All in favor? Aye.

Make no mistake: Education determines the very future of our country. Among the hot-button topics in the political arena, none has a longer-lasting, socioeconomic effect than education, and it is no surprise why. A person’s education determines lifetime earning potential and the taxes that an individual pays over the course of his lifetime.

Education affects the number of people who depend on welfare, the number of incarcerated people and the number of people who live below the poverty line in America. An investment in education is investment in the future of the United States and its status as an international superpower.

Education needs funding and restructuring. Horror stories about people who are still paying student loans well into their 50s are told around the college campfire.

It is a scary thought that support for education could be slashed further despite the already abysmally high median student loan debt of $17,040 for undergraduate students.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment in colleges and universities in the United States has increased 37 percent from 2000 to 2010.

However, the budget proposed by President Barack Obama in 2011 would have cut $89 billion from higher education grants over 10 years. In a modern economy, higher education is more important than ever, and funding for programs such as Pell Grants for Americans aspiring to something more secures future prosperity in uncertain times.

From reducing the need for welfare programs to raising the number of middle-class Americans, the American dream starts with the education of our nation’s future. Representing the leaders of the Sun Youth Forum who in turn represent their respective schools, I urge our nation’s leaders to come to a consensus about education.

At the end of the day, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, free-thinkers and traditionalists can agree on one thing: America’s next generation of innovators, thinkers and leaders is already here.

Let’s ensure that the next generation of health care professionals can afford the price of medical school. Let’s promise tomorrow’s entrepreneurs affordable admission to the business school of their dreams. Let’s make sure our future policymakers can get an education without breaking the bank. Let’s give America a great head start.

That’s something we can all agree on.

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