Universities: Businesses or educational centers?

The United States prides itself in being a country that provides equal opportunities for all. However, how can this be the case if the root to an equal opportunity begins with having an equal opportunity for a higher education, no matter what economic class one belongs to.
Public institutions should be among the best ranked in our country. According to Forbes 2015 top ranked universities in the country, the first public school to appear on the list is the Military Academy at eleventh and sadly, there aren’t many more public institutions included on that list. Of those public schools, some of the cheapest tuitions are University of Wisconsin with an estimated total annual cost of$40,644 for out-of-state students. UC Berkeley, positioned in thirty fifth place, has an estimated total annual cost of $57,234 and $35,850 for out-of-state students tuition and $12,972 for in-state students.
Sadly, our country’s private schools are considered to be among the best but cost the same amount of money one could use for the down payment of a house. Stanford charges $60,749 (this includes $13,166 that is attributed to room and board) per year to both in and out-of-state students. This allows universities, or as I’drather call them at this point: businesses, to be as selective as they want.
Although institutions that have such a vast gross income, such as Stanford’s, have the opportunity to provide hefty financial aid to students in need, how can one not expect to be discouraged when acceptance rates circle around 5.1 percent. This only makes one wonder if the 1 percent of Americans that are attending these schools do so because they have earned their 5.1 percent chance of being there or if it’s thanks to Mommy and Daddy’s line of high end hotels in the Caribbean. If a university is going to be charging such an absurd amount per year then it’s only natural for them to want to accept students based on their family’s income; is this fair?
At what point did we stop believing that education should be free? When did we decide it was more important to allocate 23.91 percent of our taxpayers dollars to our military and only 3.59 percent to our education? Having incredible public benefits for things such as health care and education is what will put us ahead as the exemplary society we strive to be.
Sonoma State charges $7,324 a year for in-state students. This excludes housing, of course, and not to mention all the other miscellaneous necessities people and students need to survive and thrive. Expensive books that, lets be honest, half of us don’t even end up reading, or opening for that matter. Food, gas, campus parking passes, student ID’s; Sonoma State charges more for a renewal of a student ID (for students living on campus) than the DMV does for a new license. The list goes on… and on top of all these fees, we are struggling with graduating on time due to largely impacted classes. Yet, somehow we’ve managed to accept the largest freshman class Sonoma State has ever had. Just more fuel to the fire, and more reason to argue universities have stopped being an educational center as their first priority, and have evidently made being a successful business their main concern. Students working for dining are being paid minimum wage, $9.00 an hour, even in our high-end restaurant, Prelude. There isn’t much incentive to work your hardest or do your best when the reward is a petty $9 dollars that later has to undergo taxes.
“People can’t afford school anymore, and there’s a big turnover rate because of that. So much stuff you have to deal with for such a low pay that you constantly see people filtering in and out, which doesn’t make for good business,” said Sam Hayman, a manager at Prelude.
The Green Music Center has brought a lot of prestige and importance to our school, which in turn requires for it to be run in a manner equal to that. If students are being paid low wages, the service will reflect that, and that’s not the message we want to send out to the venues valued guests.  
Our public universities are the same price as private universities in other countries. Shouldn’t education should be free because we all deserve the same opportunity? Of course it’s irrational to ask or expect a completely gratis education. However it should not be far fetched to expect to pay a tuition that corresponds to what one chooses to study. It only makes sense to charge more for a career that will later give one the means to pay back that debt.
Why are we charging the same amount to students who study art or massage therapy than those whose desired professions are to become doctors or lawyers. Where is the logic? Our country has a growing economic gap between our upper and lower class; where the middle class is slowly disappearing and will continue to do so if we continue to expect our students to live their lives with an unreasonable amount of bills. Where is the incentive to further one’s education if a future of debt is what lies ahead? I believe this is a large ethical dilemma which our country struggles with and has not yet come to terms with how significant of an impact it can have on our society if we choose to ignore the “struggling student.”
And the problem doesn’t seem to be getting any better. According to statistics presented by CNN; following the recession starting in 2008, the tuition of public universities has increased as much as 83.6 percent in Arizona. Hawaii, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida and California had an upsurge that ranged between 62.2 to 70 percent. The article attributes this vast growth to the recession and suggests that, “The vast majority of state funding for these schools has yet to recover. States provide about 53 percent of the revenue used to support public schools, according to the report. Without the funding, many schools are forced to make up the difference with higher tuition.”