Tag Archives: In The Heights

Is access to higher education a right?

One of my favorite songs from the musical In The Heights is “96,000.”  The main character, Usnavi, discovers that someone in the neighborhood has won the lotto for $96,000.  The song is about what each character would do with all of that money ranging from moving out of the barrio to paying off debt to getting a new hair weave.  In all cases, $96K would completely change the life of the winner.

And as I was watching this video tonight it struck me.

$96,000 is not enough to pay for a Bachelor’s Degree at many universities and colleges in the USA.

Actually, many undergraduate degrees are twice this amount!  I know I am not the first person to point this out.

Yesterday Seth Odell tweeted,

tweet on higher education

An excellent question that sparked a lot of conversation including,

tweet on higher education as a right is education a righttweet is higher education a right answer

I guess we have to start at the definition of what a “right” is and if we look to the constitution or the Bill of Rights… well as Katie pointed out, neither document articulates a right to education.

But we have all seen the information released that graduating from college helps you earn more in your lifetime.  And most recently the numbers show that college educated individuals are more likely to be employed in general.

So if higher education is the numero uno ticket to long-term success… how can it not be a right?

Seth phrased his question well asking if “access” to higher education is a right.

I think there is a fundamental difference between the right to higher education and the right to access higher education.

And personally, I believe access to higher education should be a right.

Does this mean we should all get to go to Harvard?  No.  To me this means that you should have a choice of institutions to attend even if you were born in a low-income area, even if your parents aren’t able to afford an expensive education, even if you don’t win the lottery.

If access to higher education is being hindered by extremely high tuition costs, what does that say about the right to access higher ed?  Who is out there defending that right?  Or maybe I am out of line and it isn’t a right at all.

This is kind of a huge topic…

…and I will admit that I have not done extensive research on the lengthy debate of this subject.  And truthfully, I don’t care if you have either!  I’m very curious to find out what you think.  Let’s keep this conversation rolling.

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