Make ECC 1979 Again

Justin Rost, Staff Writer

  “In 1979, I was a senior in high school and ECC was an exciting thing to look forward to attending. Fast forward 40 years and it seems as though that enthusiasm no longer exists. I believe the cornerstone has the opportunity and resources to look into why that has happened and what can be done to bring back the pride, spirit and enthusiasm.” 

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   Thank you for your inquiry dear stranger. We writers at the Cornerstone enjoyed your question and I believe I can give you the answers you are looking for as to why enthusiasm may have waned over the last 40 years here at Harvard on the Hill, formally known as East Central College. 

   In 1979 the college had only existed and been serving our area for 10 years. According to the US Census Bureau, at that time the US population was 225 million and about 15% of people 25 years and older held a bachelor’s degree or higher*. Flash forward to 2016 and the US population has reached over 320 million people and the percentage of people possessing a bachelor’s degree or higher is now 33.4%. While the population has grown by a hundred million people, simultaneously has the percentage of people with four-year degrees or higher more than doubled. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics corroborates this information, and shows that since 1992 the percentage of the workforce possessing solely a high school diploma or less has been rapidly declining, while associate’s, bachelor’s and higher degree holders have been steadily taking up a larger portion of the work force over time. 

   If all of that information seems obscure, then forgive me, but what it boils down to is that over the last 40 years possessing an associate’s degree from a community college has become much less rare; it is even more likely now that a peer or someone you are competing with in the job market has obtained a degree level higher than an associates, making the investment into an associate’s degree usually not enough on its own. To top it off there has been a 250% increase in general currency inflation since 1979, and even worse is that on top of that 250% increase in inflation, MarketWatch reports that “the average price of an undergraduate degree increased $63,973, or 161%, since 1987 [alone].” And to reiterate, that 161% inflation rate in undergraduate degree attainment is inflation adjusted, so the actual rise in undergraduate degree cost is 411% — and that is only assuming that there was no inflation in the cost of college between the years of 1979 and 1987. It pains me to add onto this, but it also must be mentioned that over the last 50 years inflation-adjusted incomes have been stagnant for all but the top 20% of earners, who saw their income double — with the greatest increase in inflation adjusted-income occurring in just the top 5% of earners, according to  “U.S Household Incomes: A 51-Year Perspective” published in AdvisorPerspectives, an economic advisor news forum.  

   I’ve been at this place for two years now. If you’re not here for nursing (in which you’re guaranteed job security taking care of the boomers) or engineering with the intent to transfer to S&T, then you’re likely yourself wondering what comes next – a lot of us are. We all have to eat and live someplace, yet while you’re pursuing a degree you have that much less time out of your week to spend with your family or attain income. I don’t think people should have to go hungry to put themselves through college, but a lot of people are. There is a widespread and sick joke in our country that people survive their college years on cooked Ramen and water alone. So, to be most concise: happiness at ECC is down because currently in our country, and worldwide, we are experiencing the death throes of capitalism. I don’t know about you all, but don’t let the cashiers or managers at Walmart be the one to decide that you’re going to starve to death. And if you are dying — do like capitalism and make a lot of noise and crash about first. 

*I know ECC only awards associate degrees, but due to the limitations of historical data on degree attainment, I am using this percentage to make inferences on the percentage of associates degrees at the time

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