The Failing of Higher Education

I’ve often wondered if a college education was worth the cost and I have never questioned it more than I do now.

We are pushed by society to earn a degree from a university so that we can land a job making a salary that, in its entirety, wouldn’t cover the entire sum of tens of thousands of dollars of debt. But we can’t land any job without an education, right?

Now imagine putting students that are paying for an education at risk for being infected with COVID-19 so that a university can continue to thrive while so many are drowning.

At the beginning of the pandemic, when cases were only beginning, universities put the health and safety of students, faculty, and residents of college towns first. Now, is the health and safety of anyone really a priority?

Of course, life must go on. Another lockdown and quarantine would be extremely difficult to overcome. However, with COVID-19 cases continuing to rapidly increase, it is truly unbelievable that universities even invited students back to campus and are now keeping students on campuses despite the escalating number of cases.

Virginia Tech is a growing hotspot according to USAToday for surging cases. While not at the very top of the list, we very well could be in just a matter of days.  Virginia Tech’s assurance to the community that the outbreak is under control is a public relations fail waiting to happen.

For this to be “expected” by the university and no real action taken for the safety of the students of Virginia Tech and the community of Blacksburg, it is clear that the university is a business first and foremost, with its number one priority being to draw revenue. While this might be universities lifeline now, it could be their ultimate demise.

Attempting to provide normalcy in the midst of a pandemic that has only worsened is naïve. Expecting students and residents to somehow magically avoid COVID-19 while summoning thirty thousand plus people from all corners of the U.S. and other countries is simply impossible. It is out of anyone’s hands to avoid a surge in cases while such a great number of potential cases come together.

How is charging full tuition to students who are now working harder than ever to earn their education independently reasonable? There have been petitions across the country to reverse this action. Being charged for facilities and other activities that students have no access to or fear using due to infection is outrageous. Universities will survive COVID-19; some students will not.

Professors are being pushed to give students more assignments and work than ever before to “make sure that they are staying on top of things," as if going to school online means we aren’t living through daily struggles like before. Ironically, we are perhaps dealing with more outside of the classroom than ever. Where was this interest in our performance when we actually saw our professors in person?

Will those who made the decisions to burden students financially be able to sleep better at night with their safety-netted inflated salaries?

Just how bad does this virus have to become in college towns all over the country before something is done?

Will Virginia Tech suddenly change course in their decision for students after tuition can no longer be refunded?

What will be the excuse after it is all said and done? How will universities justify exposing their students to the virus that has taken the lives of thousands in America?

Higher education has become an industry with only one priority: increase of wealth. Failing to be committed to the gift of education and growth of knowledge in it’s one true priority— students— is the higher education system collapsing.