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Pragmatic Perspective: The funding debacle that should not be

A new semester is always exciting for me. I look forward to new experiences and new knowledge to be obtained through my newly matriculated classes.

The beginning of this last semester, however, was both bitter and sweet. It was sweet with excitement, but bitter when it came to forking over cash for tuition and fees for both me and my wife. We both had help through scholarships and federal grants, but we still had to pay for nearly one quarter of our tuition out of pocket, which is quite a chunk of change for a young married couple, or practically anyone, for that matter.

You might think that there was wailing and gnashing of teeth as I punched my Visa information into Weber State’s website, but on the contrary, there was a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of assurance that I was making an investment in my life, not just throwing money into some vague coffer of useless money.

Education, and particularly higher education, is the single most important investment any nation state could possibly make. If your people are not educated, how can any society hope to compete in the global economy? Simply put, it can’t. Utah is in its own debacle where there seems to be some confusion pertaining to the importance of higher education and, specifically, the funding of that education.

According to a recent Signpost article, written by Spencer Garn, there is a petition here on campus that students can sign, insisting that education must be first on the Utah State Legislature’s agenda in the upcoming legislative session. Garn, in his article, quotes representative Melvin Brown, who serves as the legislature’s appropriations chairman, as saying that he recommended cuts to higher education because “revenue has not been equal to the request of demand, and so the only option is to cut or increase taxes.”

Brown’s explanation for why cuts to higher education are necessary just doesn’t sit well with me, because we seemingly have found ourselves a catch-22 of higher-education funding. Students want all of the amenities that any first-class institution of education can offer, but we don’t want to pay higher tuition. Taxpayers and legislatures want first-class schools and universities in the state, but they don’t want any tax increases that would facilitate the payment for such institutions.

So let’s unpack this a bit. We all want the best schools and for education to come first, right? So if this is what we want so badly, why is nobody willing to pay for it?! If students won’t and taxpayers won’t, then who will? I don’t want to pay higher tuition just as much as the next poor college student, but I also would feel fine doing so if it meant furthering the quality of education. Also, as a taxpaying citizen, I know I would support a tax increase if its purpose was to create a brighter educational future for myself, but also for future generations.

Taxpayers and students alike need to understand that we can’t have our cake and eat it too. The fact of the matter is that if we want the quality of education to increase, then the price tag will as well. And in order to pay for that price tag, maybe we’ll have to pay a bit more in tuition and the taxpayers might see a small hike. I don’t know about the rest of you, but a bright future and a first-class education for the generations of tomorrow are worth any cost, no matter high that cost may seem.

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