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Education and the (Financial) "Playing Field"

Serena's picture

Being a student who is using education to climb out of the lower class, the idea of "leveling the playing field" is one that I think of often. I consider myself privileged in this respect: though my mother is disabled and has raised me on her own along with two other (foster) children, she has always emphasised the importance of educational motivation and has been willing to sacrifice to make this possible for us.

Not everyone is as fortunate. Many cannot even fathom the idea of becoming educated beyond high school: some must halt their educational careers even before high school graduation to care for their families, while others have become so disillusioned with or otherwise discouraged by the educational system that it seems as if it is not worth it. Of course, the public school system doesn't do much to help: as Shannon has stated, I have experience with people who have been "pushed through" public school despite performing poorly in class, putting them at a further disadvantage in standardised tests and increasing the possibility of dropping out of college.

For those who have made it through high school and would like to continue their education, the problem doesn't stop there. The steps of applying to college - paying for standardised tests and college application fees, for example - are often expensive and students sometimes are not aware of the resources available to them to bypass these fees (I was not aware until I had taken my SAT I). Getting into a "good" college is difficult for people from poor backgrounds because they do often do not have access to many resources such as tutors, homework help, etc, and affordable associate's degrees are now of little worth. If students do get in from their own merit or affirmative-action based measures (being a minority or a first-generation college-goer), education can still be very expensive despite financial aid and scholarships. Loans only further the problem, shelling out cash that people cannot afford to pay back and setting them far into debt before they even have a chance to succeed.

Having had the privilege (if you may call it that) of going to a private high school school where many students came from the upper-class, I have seen the worst of the other side: parents spending thousands of dollars on SAT prep, paying to sit standardised tests several times since middle school, visiting far-away or even international schools, applying to dozens of schools, and bribing universities with donation money (much as I'd love to say this is an exaggeration, it is not). In addition to this, upper-class students often come from multiple parent households; are not first-generation students; and have families who are knowledgeable about schools, emphasise the importance of education, and can move to a nice neighbourhood or send their children to a private school.

So, does education level the (financial) playing field? In theory it could, but it does not benefit as many people as we would like to think. This is not singularly the fault of the potential student or their family, but a complex relationship of inequalities and hereditary attitudes.