By Zach Cartwright
Billy Willson, a student at Kansas State University, made an eloquent case against the modern college education system after earning a 4.0 GPA.
In a viral Facebook post featuring a photo of himself flipping the bird at the Kansas State University sign, Willson laid out his case for why he was dropping out despite earning perfect grades in all of his classes this past semester.
“YOU ARE BEING SCAMMED. You may not see it today or tomorrow, but you will see it some day,” Willson wrote. “You are being put thousands into debt to learn things you will never even use. Wasting 4 years of your life to be stuck at a paycheck that grows slower than the rate of inflation. Paying $200 for a $6 textbook.”
“Average income has increased 5x over the last 40 years while cost of college has increased 18x. You’re spending thousands of dollars to learn information you won’t ever even use just to get a piece of paper,” Willson continued, blasting universities for requiring students take courses that aren’t even tangentially related to their major.
“Colleges are REQUIRING people to spend money taking gen. ed. courses to learn about the quadratic formula (and other shit they will never use) when they could be giving classes on MARRIAGE and HOW TO DO YOUR TAXES,” Willson wrote.
While his math isn’t 100 percent correct, Willson is right in that the cost of college tuition has risen at a much quicker rate than household income. In one study, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that over a 15-year period, the average cost of living and household income increased at approximately the same rate while the cost of college increased roughly three times as much as income and cost of living. The same study also found that student financial aid has also failed to keep up with skyrocketing tuition
GAO found that:
(1) between 1980 and 1995, average tuition at 4-year public colleges for in-state, full-time students increased 234 percent, while median household income increased 82 percent and the Consumer Price Index increased 74 percent;
(2) the increase in colleges’ expenditures and a greater dependency on tuition as a revenue source were the two factors most responsible for the tuition increase;
(3) tuition revenues increased from 16 percent to 23 percent during this period, mainly because the revenue share provided by states decreased 14 percent;
(4) student grant aid has not kept pace with tuition levels, so students and their families are relying more heavily on loans and personal finances;
(5) increases in instruction, administrative, and research costs accounted for more than two-thirds of the 121 percent increase in total college expenditures;
In 2014, Graphiq further quantified the tuition crisis with a chart that showed Americans’ flatlining incomes were making college more inaccessible, and that tuition costs continued to outpace financial aid programs:
Willson’s point about student debt being a “scam” is spot-on, when considering that 43 percent of 22 million Americans with federal student loans were in default, meaning they hadn’t made a payment in over a year. To make matters worse, President George W. Bush signed a bill into law in 2005 that made it so student loan debt couldn’t be discharged through bankruptcy like other debt, essentially turning an entire generation of college students into indentured servants to their debtors for several decades.
In 2013, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) submitted a bill aimed at lessening student loan debt payments, by proposing the idea of making federal student loan interest rates the same as the interest rates given to big banks (0.75 percent). However, as Donald Trump prepares to assume the presidency, that bill seems even more unlikely to pass.
Read Willson’s full rant below:
Zach Cartwright is an activist and author from Richmond, Virginia. He enjoys writing about politics, government, and the media. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.