Apprectiate state-funded education

Hiba Ahmad
Contributing Columnist

Illustration by Chris Kindred

Pursuing a higher education is a dream for many. Students from all around the world step onto VCU’s campus in hopes of finding not only their passion, but themselves.

They walk in with a set of skills that they wish to polish and perfect, so they can fulfill their responsibilites to the world. With a campus like VCU, we are fortunate enough to have a plethora of services that many students may not have received in their previous years of schooling. However, students easily dismiss opportunities at hand and end up meandering their way to graduation. Students need to understand and avail themselves of the multiple programs on campus to help them walk out of school as a polished individual ready to give back to communities around them.

VCU prides itself on the diverse population of students who walk its campus. They come from different financial, social and ethnic backgrounds, but with a common goal of pursuing a degree. Some understand the importance of receiving an education and develop a hunger to broaden their horizon of knowledge. However, there are also students on campus who waste not only their time and money, but those of others as well. It is understood that in the United States, education is a basic fundamental of survival. That doesn’t mean we should simply get a degree that will earn us money and stop there.

Students need to become more aware of how much money and effort is being put into providing an education in this country and avail themselves of all the assistance that is offered to them. Not every student struggled their way through the first half of the educational careers, but the federal government has invested in programs to provide funds for those who do.

Programs like No Child Left Behind and Title I provide the necessary aid to students to increase equal opportunity for anyone who wishes to pursue a higher education. The aid doesn’t stop there. If funding your college degree is something out of your financial means, there is financial aid which includes federal grants and loans to help you reach your goals.

The government further allots funds for their public universities to have programs like ASPIRE and VCU Globe that give students the opportunity to step out of their comfort zones and delve deeper into their education. If students were to truly understand the gravity of the programs, not only would they walk away with a useful degree, but an expanded knowledge that they can use to help the world in which they live.

Living in a Western nation, we are extremely fortunate to have our federal and state governments invest in and prioritize our education. The government has provided a plethora of programs that provide funding in order to help all students succeed, including Title I, which was introduced in 1965. The federally formed program was created to aid elementary and secondary schools in order to decrease the existing achievement gap among all demographics of students. The achievement gap that exists today specifically applies to minority students such as Hispanics, Asians and African-Americans. It also includes those students who belong to families who fall below the $40,000 poverty line.

The Obama Administration has made great strides in an attempt to continue to close these gaps and increase the level of achievement for all students. In the education budget for 2015, 21 percent of the projected budget is dedicated to Title I funds. The funds are then broken down and sent to every public school that has shown to be struggling in student achievement or has struggled to sufficiently provide for their students. In Richmond alone, 37 public schools, elementary to secondary, receive some sort of funding from the Title I program. One of our neighboring schools, George W. Carver Elementary School whom we have a mentorship program with is an example of a school that receives federal aid for its students.

The administration continues to further its goal of equal opportunity to education by announcing on Jan. 8 a goal to make two years of community college free for students who are willing to work for it. It’s comforting to know that students who watch their parents struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet still have the support of their government to aim higher and reach their dreams of obtaining a quality education.

What students need to realize is that the fact that they have made it to the point of studying at a university is a huge accomplishment. We are not entitled to education after our high school diplomas. Many of us would not have made it out with the confidence to pursue a degree if it weren’t for the aid offered in high school or the access to future aid if they did choose higher education. The afterschool tutor who helped you pass your geometry class, the in-school psychologist who held your hand while the stress of junior year overwhelmed you and the speech teacher who helped you gain the confidence to speak in front of your peers did not come without some sort of federal funding.

The social issues we see painted across our TV screens and Twitter feeds are often discouraging to see. As students who are still on a journey in expanding their knowledge, it’s hard to believe that those issues will continue to affect us in the future. By being more aware of the investment our government is making in our preparation to handle these growing problems, it will help us develop a strong sense of preparedness and pride when we walk out into the world. 

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