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Education: The True American Dream

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization

By Parker Riggs
November 27, 2017

If you work hard enough, you can achieve anything you set your mind to do. This is a statement everyone has probably heard and possibly even said to a family member or a friend. For me growing up I believed it to be true. My grandfather worked his way up from a poor boy in a small town to a successful businessman in a slightly bigger town. Though today I do not see it as being as true as it was for my grandfather, rather I see it as only being true in certain areas in life.

Specifically, I see this truth in education. Growing up in a town where rich and poor kids went to public school you could see that if you worked hard you could get a great education no matter your economic background. Those who worked hard and made good grades, like a few of my friends, went off to a state college on a scholarship. From there they got jobs or continued to gain further education in graduate or medical school. The opportunity was there for those who tried hard to make something of themselves.

I make this point because, the American Dream, whether we like it or not, is no longer working hard in a factory to create a better life for our families. Immigrants are not just coming to this country to work to support their families. They are coming here to get a great college education — some for themselves and some for their children. Even now kids from around the world leave their homes and their families to learn at our universities and work with our professors. I could never imagine having to leave my home to go to another country just to receive a good education. We should take pride in the fact that people want to learn and live in our great country.

Instead, we are making it not only harder for individuals to come to this country, we are making it hard to get a good education in this country. The tax bill making its way through Congress is an attack on higher education in the United States. As a student who is currently in graduate school and hoping to go on to get my Ph.D., this is an unnerving time. I have worked hard to get where I am now. From working two jobs while I was a full-time student, working on my undergraduate to working three jobs during my early months into my graduate degree. The only saving grace was being offered a graduate assistantship. This paid position gave me a stipend that lowered my tuition and allowed me to leave two of my part-time jobs.

Graduate assistantship positions are not handouts, you have to work and make time between your studies to be successful in the position. They teach you to manage time and help you further your knowledge through research. They are not positions that should be used as pawns in the political game. Education should not be used as a political pawn. Students should have the ability to get a good education without going into debt and paying more taxes on top of that. If this tax plan is passed with the provision that rids tuition waivers from taxation, it will hurt colleges and universities across the country.

If the bill is passed, universities and colleges may find ways to offer the same benefits to students to lure them to their programs. Though this new approach will take time. By then the damage will already be done. The message will be clear to students in the US and abroad. That message will be that education takes a back seat to corporate interests in this country. That is a message that will be with us for generations. It will make it that much harder for students to achieve the dreams they set out to achieve. Foreign students will continue to turn away from the U.S. in favor of countries that are not only friendlier in terms of immigration, but also realize promoting education is not just a benefit for themselves but a benefit for everyone.

The United States education system is nowhere near perfect. It is a system that is underfunded and can be better in many areas, but it is our system. The system has produced artists, lawyers, doctors and government employees who have gone off to change the world. We have educated world leaders and their families. Our leaders should promote our higher education system, not try to make it harder for our institutions to succeed. Let’s show the world that we are not just a country that favors the few over the many. Let’s show them we are a country that was founded by men who sought knowledge and that quest to discover still exists to this day.


Author: Parker Riggs. Future Public Servant, Second Year MPA Student at Augusta University. [email protected]

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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