Cost Is Daunting, But College Is Worth It

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The following editorial was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday, January 6, 2019 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section.

By: Jett Kaler, McKinley High School, Class of 2019

The reality that most high school seniors are faced with are life determining questions: Is college worth it? What kind of job will I have in ten years if I go to college or if I don’t? We have to answer these questions for ourselves depending on our own interests and future wants.

For most people, college is the natural progression, but for some, college is the more difficult choice. Only 70% of high school graduates go on to college, and only 58% receive their diploma. Students in the United States are $1.5 trillion dollars in debt from college tuition. On average, it takes 21 years for an individual to pay back student loans. Most won’t be finished paying for college until after their 40th birthday.

Although it's easier to stay within support systems and comfort zones, forego the debt, and get on to making money, it is important that every student in America receive the best education and obtain the many values that going to college has to offer.

College is the best way to discover things that we’re truly passionate about and to secure the financial and career benefits that can only be gained through a college experience. There are approximately 20 million college students at 5,300 different schools in the United States. With over 1,800 majors, undergraduates have almost limitless opportunity.

Discover things we’re passionate about. Compared to universities, students in high school have very limited academic opportunities. Most of us can’t even imagine the areas of study that are available as we complete our core competency classes and move on to electives. These discoveries allow us to fulfill who we want to become. For example, one third of college students working for their bachelor degrees change their major at least once. If you think about it, that’s not a negative statistic - it’s evidence that students are encountering new fields of study, learning about their strengths and acting on the opportunities discovered.

Many financial and career benefits. On average, college graduates make $1 million more than non-graduates over their lifetime. That’s 56% more in your yearly paycheck. Keep it simple: If you can make $40,000 without a degree, that seems pretty good to an 18 year old. When you get out of college assuming the 56% average puts you over $62,000 - a difference of $1,000/month. Students can research majors by anticipated starting salaries and improve their chances of starting salaries of well over $62,000. In 2016, Business Insider listed 25 majors starting salaries over $62,000. The most profitable were Petroleum Engineering, Physician Assistant, Computer Science and Mining Engineering, with top starting salaries all over $70,000 and median mid-career pay over $103,000. Student loan repayment may be heavy, but the amount you’d earn in the long run has proven to be significantly greater. The future of Hawaii depends on our financial success and going to college is the best way to achieve that.

There are resources designed to help us succeed. Programs like the Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders that have classes and conferences to help students develop and become part of the solution, to keep changing the paradigm.

Although the upfront costs of college are daunting, If we apply ourselves and study a major that has the potential for a top starting salary, then all students can have some assurance that the investment is worth it.

Tupola Will Help Raise Our Quality of Life

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The following editorial was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday, November 4, 2018 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section.

By: Evan Gates and Kana’i Kapele
Kamehameha Schools Kapalama, Class of 2019

According to the U.S Census Bureau, as of 2017, 13,537 people have left Hawai’i for the mainland because of the dramatic changes to their living conditions. Our island home is slowly becoming a distant, unattainable dream. Each year that we wait, each time we settle for incompetency, we are losing precious hope in the future. Representative Andria Tupola is determined to make vital changes to the living conditions of the local people in Hawai’i by focusing on housing, education, and employment .

Homelessness is pervasive in Hawai’i. We consistently have the top homelessness rate in the nation. The Ige administration has attempted a central, top-down strategy based that has failed to address the needs of the homeless community. Mrs. Tupola understands that homelessness is a different issue in every community - the needs of the homeless in Waiʻanae is vastly different than the needs of those on Maui.. By bringing in regional experts who know their areas better than any governor ever could, Mrs. Tupola will address the specific needs of each community. Additionally, she aims to decrease the cost of living by supporting local developers and increasing access to Hawaiian Home Lands. Her solution to increase reporting of trust land management, maximize funding from federal grants, and improve financial literacy education will bring the much needed change that is sought by Hawai’i families.  

Education and sufficient funding are imperative because together they allow people to obtain the life skills and knowledge necessary to become successful citizens. However, the DOE reported that public schools receive $12,855 per-pupil and charter schools receive $7,323 per-pupil. Unfair distribution of funding affects Hawai’i youth as they are forced to learn in settings not only unsuitable for learning but downright dangerous. Teachers are responsible for students’ success, yet the current administration has continued to mistreat them. It is no coincidence that the HSTA has felt it necessary to push for a Constitutional amendment in order to secure their proper funding; the current government has failed them. Many teachers are moving out of the state because their salary is not suitable with the cost of living. The Ige administration has proved that they cannot be trusted to support our teachers. Mrs. Tupola strives to secure equal funding for public schools, support teachers more effectively, and properly assess resources and facilities. She introduced HB 1369, a measure that would create a council composed of educators to give input on policy, and HB 2621, which increased education funding for local universities.

Lastly, Hawaiʻi has a low unemployment rate, but problems hide below the surface. Forbes ranked Hawaii  as the worst state to start a new business. In addition, Hawaiʻi lacks business resources and is limited to capital grants and local partnerships. Small businesses serve as a means for local families to achieve financial safety, yet the Ige administration has created an environment toxic to those who wish to contribute to the economy. Mrs. Tupola intends to decrease the corporate tax rate, increase opportunities for grants and local partnerships in order to aid startup businesses, and identify employment gaps to allow local businesses to remain in Hawaiʻi. Governor Ige has attacked these plans for favoring developers, but he fails to realize that these changes support small business owners as well.

Mrs. Tupola has been our state house district representative for the past four years. From leading community cleanups to painting lockers, we are personal witnesses of the immense impact and change that she has done in our community alone. Her campaign will decide whether Hawaiʻi will always be a home for the local people to stay.