March 4, 2009

New tuition freeze covertly racist move

The University of Wisconsin System recently announced its plans to offset a $174 million budget cut by increasing tuition between 5 and 6 percent.

However, students from families whose incomes are lower than $60,000 will have their tuition frozen.

Cedric Lawson, legislative affairs director for the United Council of UW Students, said he was "very excited about the possibility of the tuition freeze for families making $60,000 or less."

Lawson, Gov. Jim Doyle or anyone from the UW System, however, won't tell you that such a proposal is just one more way to make obtaining a college degree or paying student loans more difficult for the typical white student.

Although the state claims the move is designed to protect the middle class, the idea that families making more than $60,000 are somehow more able to stomach increased tuition is absurd. If both of a family's parents are employed and their children are old enough to attend college, chances are very good their combined income is above $60,000.

I can say my parents fit that description. They have five children, four of whom owe massive debts from student loans. They also own a home and two cars. We aren't wealthy by any measure. We are the middle class.

Of course, if I only had one of my parents, then our income wouldn't be over $60,000. When you consider, according to data from the 2000 U.S. Census, that 63 percent of black families are headed by single parents, compared to 26 percent of white families, it becomes clearer who is most likely to benefit from the tuition freeze.

Moreover, nearly 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. Even in today's world, women still make less than men for doing the same jobs, putting single-parent black families led by females at an even greater financial disadvantage.

Will all black students benefit from the tuition freeze? Of course not. Will some white students benefit? Probably. But the numbers don't lie. The plan was designed to offset the budget cut but protect "diversity" within the UW System.

Where is the fairness? Is it any easier for my parents, or better yet, me, to pay for an education than it is for a family of another race?

Why are families like mine, in essence, punished for making more money, even if it is solely because we have two incomes rather than one?

It's important to embrace diversity, especially on a college campus. It's also important people of all races are afforded the same opportunity - but at what expense? Similar to affirmative action, the latest tuition freeze aims to embrace diversity but does so by instituting a racist policy.

The intent surely isn't racist, but a glance at the numbers says the outcome will be. We're living in hard economic times, and the UW System has to make moves people won't like. No one wants to pay more for anything. But if we're forced to make sacrifices, we should all have to make them.

Don't favor one group over another, whether you classify the groups by race, religion, income or whatever. Because if anyone thinks my parents' $60,000-plus income made paying for school easier for me, I'd like to show them my student loan debt.

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