- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2013

In an academic year with a presidential election, an economic roller coaster and countless political scandals, it can be easy for higher education to slip under the radar. In fact, every so often higher education is a topic of debate on the Hill, but that is typically as far as it goes — debate.

While President Obama has focused his second term on health care, immigration reform and gun rights, we have become calloused by the slow-moving and uncompromising nature of our elected officials. It comes as a surprise that Mr. Obama is putting a sudden emphasis on higher education, but unsurprisingly, the Capitol is in divergence once again.

Last week, Mr. Obama surrounded himself with students on the White House lawn and insisted that America help our younger generations gain access to education and jobs because they are the present and vital future in our economy. Meanwhile, as college graduates are still entering an uncertain time in the economy and in their own futures, it appears difficult for them to be confident in their choices.

Some college graduates are still deciding between work and graduate school, and others are simply trying to pay off their undergraduate degree before even considering graduate school. And still there are those who are wondering if a graduate degree is even worth the tremendous investment when the return in this job market appears unclear.

It seems the only clear reason to obtain a graduate degree at this time comes from the societal expectations of success, the overcoming of the devalued undergraduate degree and the putting off of finding decent work. Yes, the perception and inherent value of a college degree is diminishing with each day like the effect of inflation on the American dollar.

While perspiring college students sat in the sun on the South Lawn last week, clinging to each word of perceived “hope,” they probably wondered, “What is the actual plan here?” With legislators possibly bringing about higher rates on student loans next month, more students are left feeling like they are an unheard and undervalued generation.

Student leaders and representatives across the country can all agree there has never been a question about how students feel about tuition hikes. Strain on institutional administrations by the inconsistent resources and offerings by the state is felt at every level. Public institutions that long relied on the state to fund innovative atmospheres and ideas are being left to flounder and scrape together funds that aren’t there.

It is not a “perpetual war” that Americans should blame for economic inconsistencies, it is perpetual debt and the limitations of an otherwise innovative generation.

MATTHEW KLEIN

Burke, Va.