Opinion: Privatized Higher Education and Sustaining the Status Quo

By Terra Hobler, Opinions Editor

As someone who grew up in an area with conservatives, I have often heard it said that college campuses across the country are riddled with “liberal indoctrination.” While I have always found this narrative slightly amusing, I could not help but simultaneously get annoyed by it. There is obvious irony in saying that higher education results in people becoming liberals, but as a student on Gettysburg College’s campus, I feel that is not the full story.

It is not only important but necessary that education pushes individuals to see problems where they might not have before. The solutions to these endemic problems offered at institutions of higher education are typically incapable of providing actual change. Operating exclusively through societally accepted channels of influence has historically been productive for those only wanting change to articles of current values, but rarely has it proven an effective means of dismantling systems of oppression in their entirety.

Terra Hobler '26 (Photo Eric Lippe/The Gettysburgian)

Terra Hobler ’26 (Photo Eric Lippe/The Gettysburgian)

The curriculum of colleges and universities must be able to attract students, specifically students who can pay. These are private institutions, and as such they are driven by a desire to accumulate profit – even a non-profit institution still needs to make enough money to sustain itself. In order to maintain a steady flow of students, colleges and universities must preach neoliberal, reformist doctrine in order to not only appease prospective students and justify their financial fortune, but to justify the college’s own role as a profit-seeking arbiter of qualification.

Higher education is a well established part of our current societal order in the United States, yet remains exceedingly unattainable to many Americans as a result of the steep financial requirements to attend them. Despite this system demanding economic privilege above all else, it is portrayed as being meritocratic through an intensive process of applications, acceptances and rejections. The myth of meritocracy is not exclusive to education, but it prevails in an exceedingly insidious fashion. Without free access to higher education, there is no basis to say that the institution is built on merit. This insistence on being a highly exclusive part of society serves the practical function of limiting those who can become “qualified” in the United States of America, which effectively results in a self-perpetuating class of individuals who have the authority of this arbitrary “expertise” to justify their beliefs and actions – an authority that is derived from the privilege bestowed upon them at birth.

While it may seem that I am entirely opposed to higher education, the truth could not be further removed. Education as a business is corrupt, just like most privatized industries, but the artificial level of prestige awarded to those who can pay for it makes the higher education industry more sickening than most. In order to get a good paying job, a college degree is largely expected, and in order to achieve that, an initial level of financial fortune is required. Until higher education is made free and accessible to all, there is no future of change for these institutions. The self castration of the entire system is required for its own survival in a capitalist system.

The teachings of diverse ideas is self-defeating, and every inclusive framework undermines its own position as the sole arbiter of qualification. Higher education should be attainable to everyone, as the pursuit of human knowledge should be prioritized whenever possible. By artificially gatekeeping the amount of potential students with a paywall, we are denying ourselves of millions of potential geniuses, thus squandering our human potential. We cannot say we care about humanity without free higher education. We cannot say we prioritize the betterment of our people without free higher education, and we cannot say that we genuinely seek out the best ideas without free higher education. The institutions will not change without being forced to, and our societal priorities will not either. We created all of our social frameworks, and we can change or destroy them if we choose to do so.

This article originally appeared on page 15 of the February 2024 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.

Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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