Access to free college is a hot button issue in the 2016 presidential election. The issue received more attention on Thursday in a cringe-worthy interview by Fox Business Network. Anchor Neil Cavuto interviewed Keely Mullen, organizer of the Million Student March, about the demands of the movement.
The interview is painful. Cavuto berated Mullen with tough questions in his usual condescending tone, only asking questions he already knew the answer to. His goal was to embarrass a college student on national television, and it worked.
Whether it is politically feasible to have free college is debatable, begging larger questions of who will pay for it and how, as well as whether it would cater to a lazy millennial generation who wants everything handed to them for free.
News flash Neil Cavuto: We don’t want everything handed to us for free. What we want is to afford a degree, which is now a necessity to successfully contribute to society.
A postsecondary degree is no longer a luxury for the few, it is a requirement for individual economic prosperity. Over the past three decades, college tuition has more than doubled, even after adjusting for inflation, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Many college-age students feel priced out of an education system that is supposed to be the great equalizer.
According to Forbes, college tuition costs rose by 7 percent each year for decades, with student loan interest rates to rise another 0.8 percent for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The Progressive Policy Institute estimates people under age 30 are collectively spending $43.5 billion each year paying back student loans, which is about 7 percent of annual income.
The cost of a public four-year college rose 27 percent beyond the rate of inflation over the past five years. This is due not only to tuition hikes but also to increases in fees, room and board, according to NPR.
Gordon Wadsworth, author of The College Trap proposed, “…if the cost of college tuition was $10,000 in 1986, it would now cost the same student over $21,500 if education had increased as much as the average inflation rate, but instead education is $59,800 or over 2 ½ times the inflation rate.”
I am one of the lucky ones. My parents both worked two jobs to put my sister and I through college, but not everyone has parents so willing or who can sacrifice for their children’s futures. College is expensive, and tuition is only getting higher. Louisianans are lucky in another respect — we have TOPS. For other states, however, resources like TOPS do not exist.
To be fair, Mullen’s other demands (like $15 an hour minimum wage and a cancellation of all student debt) are unrealistic, and there are better ways to pay for free college.
However, Cavuto’s interview was tactless and insensitive. His interview style is suitable for a presidential candidate with experience fielding tough questions and a bit more knowledge about how the world works. His manner of questioning was not acceptable for an idealistic young college student without a solid grip on the facts.
It was obvious Mullen was a handpicked interviewee talking to a man of almost 60 years old with extensive training and political experience. She was trying to make a difference, unlike many students her age. He badgered her to gain ratings, and it is despicable.
Not to say I expect much more from a Fox News journalist, but Cavuto could have chosen a Democratic presidential candidate if he wanted a fair debate. What he wanted was a win. Well, he won, but certainly not on a level playing field.
Mariah Manuel is a 22-year-old mass communication senior from Lake Charles, Louisiana. You can reach her on Twitter @mariah_manuel.