Noodle protest goes limp

by Anthony Berteaux, Senior Staff Columnist

College is an investment whether we like it or not. It’s a huge risk dishing out thousands of dollars on top of the blood, sweat and tears for our education. Institutions of higher education have become a war zone. Students enter with high risks and no idea whether they’re going to come out broke or sane. College is risky business, which is why degrees have such a high value.

On Oct. 23, 60 demonstrators protested high tuition fees, and brought awareness to student hunger and homelessness by bringing Cup Noodles to President Elliot Hirshman’s office. The protesters sought the fair and just treatment of these hungry students by shifting public attention to their economic situations with signs that read “Weighed down by hunger.”

However, most of the time, what’s fair doesn’t always coincide with what’s reasonable.

This protest failed to acknowledge that higher education comes with a personal risk and deliberation. The anger and demands directed toward Hirshman aren’t only delusional, but it also reveals a layer of economic ignorance regarding where the real issues lie. I sympathize with those living in hunger as a result of expensive educational costs, but I also have to question whether these protesters understand the implications and risks associated with their college education.

It’s a no-brainer college isn’t cheap in this country. The average cost for an in-state four-year public education, including tuition, and room and board, is approximately $18,000 for the 2013-14 school year. Should someone choose to go to an out-of-state institution, this number is hiked up to $31,000. Multiply these numbers by the number of years it takes to graduate from your institution of choice and you have numbers that are colossal at face value. If we add in money included for extra costs, such as the necessities of food and books, cost becomes astronomical.

The amount of capital needed to achieve higher education is costly; Therefore, when students actively make the decision to invest thousands of dollars in their education, there’s an unwritten agreement behind this decision entailing risks that often necessitate financial assistance. This assistance has led to about 52 percent of California college seniors graduating with an average of $20,000 in student loan debt. The decision to pursue higher education isn’t something that should be forced or taken lightly, because there are economic risks involved — risks that should be evaluated prior to admittance.

This protest is misguided because it ignores these personal risks. At the chance of sounding heartless, these economic woes aren’t the school’s responsibility and lack the justification for it lowering tuition cost. It’s the students’ responsibility to own up to their decisions to pay the fees required for this school to continue providing the education and services.

SDSU’s residential tuition for the 2014-15 year is a measly $6,866, which not only pays for our education and the services we enjoy as students, but also the privilege to be students at one of the top public universities in this country. In comparison, attending the University of California, San Diego comes with a whopping price tag of $13,456.

Students should properly research the price tags that come with each school. Financial responsibility isn’t the burden of the school to lower its tuition, but its on the  student to understand his or her financial realities and seek financial aid and loans prior to choosing a college.

If anything is misdirected in this protest, it’s this system of financial aid and loans. We shouldn’t be criticizing the school for having, what I believe to be, a reasonable price for the quality education we receive, but the financial aid and student loan system of this country.

It’s more reasonable and productive to criticize a financial aid system that has increasingly ignored socio-economic issues associated with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
More than half of college students receive financial aid, and conversely to what most think, FAFSA unfairly puts those who live in poverty at a disadvantage. FAFSA also puts students who struggle because of their low socio-economic status at a disadvantage by issuing questions contradicting their situation.

The ability to get parental income data, lack of access to information about financial aid and the neglect to include home equity in the family income section can lead to disproportionate amounts of money going to home-owning, wealthy families.

All of these issues lead to poor students receiving less aid and borrowing more money with absurd interest rates.

This is a real problem in need of protest to improve the quality of life for students who are struggling with food.

It’s not as simple as demanding that Hirshman lower tuition fees. Students need to target selective issues relevant to their cause. College is no time to be wasting energy on something that remains irrelevant to one’s cause.