On the surface, the reason that we go to college is to receive a degree and hopefully use that degree to better our future and the future of our family. But the college experience is much more than the academics. It is about the friends we make, the experiences we have and the growth that occurs in between the day that we move into the dorm freshman year and the day that we receive our diplomas.
The problem is that the cost of college has risen exponentially over the past few years. Many college graduates not only walk away with a degree, but with stifling student loans that have the potential to cripple them financially for years to come.
This past weekend, billionaire investor Robert Smith addressed the class of 2019 at Morehouse College. During his commencement speech, he announced that he was paying off the student loans of every graduate.
In Judaism, we refer to a good person as a mensch. Mr. Smith is more than a mensch. He is not only helping out the young men who graduated yesterday, he is setting an example for all of us, especially other member of the 1%. We all have the capacity to do good in this world, we do not need to be a billionaire, we just need a heart, a conscious and a willingness to step forward.
I wish that there were more like Robert Smith in the world.
When I was growing up, my parents were flexible on many things. But what they were not flexible on was college. One way or another, I was going to attend college and earn my degree. My middle class parents understood the value of a college education and worked hard so that their children would be able to go to college. But not every family has the financial means to send their children to college.
I get it, the process of getting your kid into college is stressful. I certainly remember what it was like as a high school student trying to figure out where to attend college and then studying like a maniac for the SATs. However, the fact that these parents used their money and influence to cheat for their kids is wrong on two levels. The first level is that cheating is obviously plain wrong. The second level is that the kids were cheated out of the lesson that true success only comes from hard work. At the some point, every parent has to step back and let their kids do for themselves, even if it goes against every parental instinct.
The frustrating aspect of these accusations is that the parents accused of making the bribes likely had the income to pay for their kids college tuition in full. With the scary rise in the cost of college tuition and the even scarier amount of student loan debt that new graduates must pay off, many may question if attending college is the right thing to do. But the reality is that most professions require some form of a college degree, even if it is an associate’s degree. Unlike their peers, these children of the accused have grown up in such a way that the cost of college and student loan debt are foreign concepts.
I don’t blame the parents for wanting the best for their children. But I cannot and will not condone what they did in the name of parenting.