By Shannon Williams
Other Side Drive October 22, 2012
As the upcoming election draws near, increases in the disparity of wealth have economists and voters alike questioning current policies. Where the economy favors workers with higher skill sets, those with lower skill sets face increasing challenges. Two weeks ago we learned that wealth and growth is highly concentrated in the top sectors of the population and according to a report released by Pew, people are having a harder time maintaining their standard of living. In addition to an increasing disparity between the upper and lower classes, the middle class is dividing out as well. According to professor Diego Vacaflores, the increasing disparity has a correlation with skills. “If you just look at the middle class you are going to see a widening. Inside the middle class some groups have higher skills and they are experiencing an increase in ages. But some portion of the middle class are lower skilled and they are seeing their wages stagnate or sometimes deteriorate.” Job markets favor those with higher education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics reported in September that 10.4 percent of workers without a high school diploma were unemployed, compared to a 4.2 unemployment rate experienced by those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Even those with a high school diploma have greater than twice the unemployment rate that college graduates do.
Despite the benefits of higher education, it still may be out of reach for many. Vacaflores says education is at the forefront of decreasing the income gap. “My personal view is that in the U.S. we are lagging behind in terms of providing a quality education, more than needing more money to expand education.” Overcoming the costs of education can be a challenge. Democratic incumbent for state representative district 45, John Adams, attended the Texas State showing of the vice presidential debate at George’s. His opponent, Jason Isaac did not respond for an interview. “I think that the government has to be involved enough to where the redistribution of the upper one or two percent slows down.”
In the Pew report, 95% of respondents placed at least some degree of blame on Congress for difficulties the middle class has faced in the past 10 years. Adams says that a lot of people are challenged by the cost of higher education. “When the texas legislature decided not to invest in higher education ten years ago, when tuition was deregulated. And in the past ten years tuition has skyrocketed, making it more difficult for students and families of students to get those children educated.”
Presidential platforms differ when it comes to higher education. According to politifact, under vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s economic plan, the American Opportunity tax credit, enacted as part of the 2009 stimulus bill, would expire. In addition the largest source of loans for needy families seeking higher education, the Pell Grants, would decrease. In contrast, according to NPR news many have been critical of Obama’s grant programs because they fail to address the real issue -the increasing costs of attending a university. “I tell people that when I went to school, I was charged by the state of Texas, $4 per semester hour. My typical tuition bill was $50 a semester. When I went to school the state invested in higher education. We don’t seem to do that anymore. We make it difficult for families to send their kids to college. That’s really sad because for every dollar we spend on higher education, we stimulate the future economy 5 to 6 dollars. So when you cut your investment on higher education, you’re actually cutting what your economy will be doing 5,10,15 years down the road.” Adams says that it’s tough in Hays county for middle income families to send their children to higher education. When it comes to a career versus an hourly job, it comes down to costs and availability of loans.