Several years ago, a Phoenix lawmaker introduced a bill that would have required students in Arizona’s colleges and universities to pay $2,000 in tuition costs out of pocket. The legislator argued that this measure, in the words of a reporter for Capitol Media Services, "would ensure students have some ‘skin in the game,’ making it more likely they would take their education seriously."
Taken seriously or not, the costs of higher education are rising dramatically, so much so that it is estimated that student-loan debt now exceeds credit-card debt in the United States. The burden of debt is so serious that in 2012 a lawmaker in the U.S. Congress introduced a student loan forgiveness act.
The editor of your local newspaper has asked you, as an economist, to write an "op-ed" piece—that is, an essay of opinion that is positioned across from the newspaper’s official editorial page (thus opposite-editorial, and thus op-ed)—discussing some aspect of this crisis.
You may, for instance, want to write of the merits of canceling student debt; or of the role an educated populace plays in an economy based on technology and innovation, and thus the social self-interest in encouraging education; or of the benefits to society by way of higher incomes and therefore higher taxes paid to and by college-educated workers; or of the economic effects that loan forgiveness might have, intended or otherwise.
In other words, you have considerable leeway in the approach the essay takes. Whatever the case, though, you must include an economic concept to inform your discussion. This is an essential part of the assignment, so please do not overlook it. If you do not understand what I mean by "economic concept," then, once again, review the syllabus and the course blog.
Fitting your work to the space available is of critical importance. Your editor has 500 words to spare, not including your headline (the title of your essay) and your byline (that is, your name). Please be sure to include both. Anything more than 525 words or less than 475 words is unacceptable.
Your deadline falls at 5:00 on April 2. Please be sure to have your op-ed piece in before that time. And please follow the formatting requirements as specified in your syllabus, naming your file to follow the conventions we have established in the first two assignments.
You would do well to study other op-ed pieces to get a sense of how they are structured; pointers to some of these pieces may be found on the course blog. You would also do well to have useful facts and figures to back up your case—to argue, that is, from reason rather than mere emotion.
It is worth noting, by the way, that our Phoenix legislator withdrew his proposed law. Do not let this fact materially affect your argument. It’s always possible, after all, that the legislation will be reintroduced.
The editor, the newspaper’s readers, and I look forward to reading your work.