The student debt crisis is aptly named. A college education is necessary in a competitive job market. But what happens when the price of an education is not only out of reach, but the quality of education plummets? We're left with a generation of students with hollow diplomas that cost far too much to obtain and yet lack any real weight when it comes to improving their job prospects.
For most college students, state universities offer a cost-effective solution to the growing absurdity of paying for college. Such was the case with Wisconsin native Anna Schwanebeck, who always wondered how she would be able to afford college. Private schools were out of the question. So for her, the choice was simple.
"The University of Wisconsin offered me a world-class education at a price my family could afford," she said.
That was before Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced a total overhaul of funding for the state university system. The University of Wisconsin as a whole will lose $300 million dollars in funding. This will mean larger classes, program cuts, faculty lay-offs, and a dramatic tuition increase, among other things.
Among the programs that are at risk of extinction at Eau Claire are Women's Studies (Anna's minor) and American Indian studies. In anticipation of the budget cuts, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has already discontinued its Women's Studies program and all its Anthropology programs.
In addition to the program cuts, UW will be laying off faculty members. While the number of faculty that will lose their jobs is still to be determined, the outlook isn't good. As a political science major, Anna is more than likely going to lose three professors. In a recent survey, a third of faculty members said they were actively seeking employment outside of the state.
The current tuition freeze in Wisconsin ends in 2017, which means that Anna, a junior, will have to pay the increased tuition for a semester before she graduates.
Anna's little brother is currently a sophomore in high-school and hopes to one day attend UW-Madison, the flagship campus of the university. But the impending tuition increase could make it too expensive for him and many students like him.
Anna doesn't plan on letting Scott Walker get away with it, and she has the support of the University of Wisconsin student body behind her. "Throughout the state, I'm seeing a huge opposition to these cuts and seeing students sticking up to them," Anna said. "We're also seeing students reaching out to their legislators through postcard campaigns. It's powerful to see the response it's getting."
With the help of the College Democrats of Wisconsin, hundreds of students have rallied against the budget cuts. "If they go through with this and get rid of the UW system, which is so crucial to our state, other states are going to see this and think they can get away with the same thing," Anna said. "It's a national issue."
Many speculate that Governor Walker will run for president in the 2016 election. Should this happen, his anti-education stance could become a national problem.
Anna finds hope in the support she has received from students from all over the country. "Sometimes we as students feel powerless, but when we reach out to our legislators and 30,000 people sign a petition, it sends the message that the government needs to be accountable to us," she said.
You can sign the petition by visiting Anna's page on change.org.