Save the Student, If You’re Aware

There is this interesting phenomenon that people experience when they view a “Save the Children” commercial. The directors of those commercials have a goal in mind – to strike a heart chord in the viewer which plays the tune “This is sad. I must help them. I must give money.” The resulting effect is viewer capital pouring into the charity. For good or bad…who knows? Is the donation really going to the child who’s seen drinking and bathing in a murky river? We would hope so, but we would have to look at the charity’s financial statements to determine where the money is truly dispersed.

I have always found those commercials interesting, on a psychological level. What I find even more interesting is that this dismal phenomenon exists with “Save the Children”, but it’s not at play with the fair amount of media attention focused on saving our students from burdening debt and deceptive collegiate practices. The news has been brimming with warnings of student debt chaos, and soaring tuition rates across the college macrocosm. But is anyone, anywhere, doing anything to effectively address the issue? Even with main-stream financial gurus like Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey warning their audiences to avoid student loan debt, the message does not seem to resonate with the broader public. President Obama set in place the College Scorecard to help students choose the best college at the best price. The College Scorecard is a great idea; but how many people actually use it? It’s relatively unknown.

Perhaps the media avenues have been too legitimate and boring. Would it help if a YouTube sensation made some videos about deceptive admission practices? How about Drake composing an album addressing the impact of the student debt crisis, or a Pixar movie about young siblings who set off on an exciting and dangerous journey into the halls of ivy? Maybe we just need a different approach to spread advocacy. How about some very funny memes about college affordability that go viral? Anything that draws attention to the heart of the matter will help.

Already people are beginning to forget the recent shutdown of Corinthian Colleges and the students afflicted by Corinthian’s calamitous business practices. Because they don’t know any better, some of those Corinthian students are being swallowed up by other devious for-profit universities. They are at risk of experiencing another school shutdown. People are also forgetting that the University of Phoenix, which has been one of the largest universities by enrollment metrics, was placed on probation with sanctions imposed to keep military funding out of its revenue stream. Despite University of Phoenix’s inability to provide a fair education for the public good, we still held the 2015 Super Bowl in the stadium which bears its name. I don’t want to pick on the for-profit universities exclusively, so I’ll add that even the political mayhem at the College of Dupage isn’t receiving enough media attention.

The Corinthian students fought long and hard to bring justice to their situation. But they had to fight without much backing from the public. There was no outrage. There still isn’t. A lot of blame was put on the students. “They should have read the enrollment agreement,” many people said. I wonder if the students at the College of Dupage feel isolated in their embarrassment of C.O.D’s lack of fiscal accountability.

In late 2015, a group of graduates from The Illinois Institute of Art stood outside campuses in the bitter cold with signs that read “Don’t Get Scammed.” They were warning prospective students and their parents that the institute is for-profit and involved in ongoing litigations, placing its accreditation in jeopardy. They were ticked off, and they were few. These graduates wanted to catch enrollees before it was too late. They wanted to bring awareness, because popular media is not effectively cautioning the public.

When it comes to making college more affordable and a safer bet, the most effective advocating will come from prepared, educated, and financially adept students. Unfortunately it may come after graduation.

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