The economy is undoubtedly growing since Donald Trump’s presidency. His bare-knuckle deregulation on coal, oil and business combined with his tax-cut legislation has put the American people back to work. Every color, race, and creed, representing all peoples of socio-economic background, are enjoying the economic benefits. Trump said it best when he said “Making America Great Again.” In other words, the American people and American businesses are interested in making money again. Obama’s mantra “share the wealth” is out style; “how can I get rich” is in.
Then, what groups of American society are not enjoying this new American economic boom? One would think everybody would be happy about the American economy turning around. Of course, it is a given that the Democrats attending the State of the Union Address are not. There also is another institution not enjoying this economic boom: higher education. Since 2015, according National Center for Educational Statistics, community college attendance is down by 16 percent and four-year college attendance is only up by one percent. Common sense and basic math calculation shows that the four-year attendance will eventually decrease with a smaller pool of community college students to pull from.
Even though this decline slowly started under Obama, it will escalate under Trump, especially among able working adults between the ages of 25 and 50. According to the 2012 National Student Clearing House Research, one-third of all college enrollment consists of adult students. Under Obama’s stagnant economy, adults went back to college because they were laid off and had the spare time, or could not find a full-time job and thought a college degree would help in the job search, or were hoping to get an edge on their fellow workers for the few promotions in the work force. Adult students were willing to take a chance and go in debt for a better future.
Now, Trump is offering them a better future with a growing job market and without the college debt. There is also the rising number of millennials opting out of the college market for work at Starbucks or Target while trying to figure their life goals, and now, they can, with a guaranteed job. Common sense tells a person, “get it while it’s good,” and the American people are. College and its debt load will be there when the good times are over, but the good times are here and the American people want to partake of it. It could be the return of the “yuppies.”
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While Trump is helping America, he also is helping his bid for a second election with his war on higher education. First, the working class usually votes more conservative. Second, Trump has possibly brought higher education to its financial knees. Colleges need students for tuition, scholarship, and grant money. Without students, less money for colleges to spend. Less money to spend means higher tuition to make up the difference, which means less people are willing to go to college. One would rather make money than owe money, especially where there is no guarantee of economic success with a college degree.
Working hard and making money are in style, and college education and high debt are out. Donald Trump could bring the end of the belief that higher education is the key to the American Dream.
Terry L. Coggin Jr. of Nashville is an admissions and academic adviser at North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount.