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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Answer president’s call for lower tuition

Published: January 27, 2012
Section: Editorials

President Obama’s State of the Union included a central portion on higher education, with some choice words for Congress—but also for universities themselves.

Colleges across the nation have allowed their tuition and other costs to skyrocket. In recent years a college education has again become more and more the province of the elite, and truly elite colleges are almost exclusively upper-class.

As the cruelly ironic “standard of living” has become more difficult to reach, one in five American children are on food stamps and wages for the middle class are stagnant (and the poor, forget it), universities like Brandeis have become more and more expensive.

Obama proposed a package of measures government can use to aleviate the situation, and deserves credit for his tenure’s expansion of the ubiquitous and life-saving Pell Grant. The president also called for more aggressive measures for Congress to put into place, restricting federal funding for research and other aid from colleges who cannot get their constant tuition hikes under control.

His passion mirrors the avowed goal of another president: Brandeis’ Fred Lawrence. As the first year of his reign runs behind us, the board still remembers his committing himself to what he called his “first priority,” saying that making Brandeis affordable for everyone was of utmost importance.

Brandeis’ legacy and oft-repeated drive for social justice demands no less. Brandeis cannot be another bubble of the 1 percent (OK, 20 percent, but you get the drift). Obama is right to highlight the growing strains on the middle class and the rising level of crushing poverty. He and others in government must do all they can, but schools like Brandeis are the front lines.

Education can be the ultimate equalizer, guarantor of that “opportunity for all” everyone’s talking about. Brandeis can and should be open to all who strive to make it here.

The actual commitment we each have toward social justice will be sorely tested if trends continue unabated.