Lazy Sunday Binge Watch: Ivory Tower

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Once again, it’s Sunday, and the end of the weekend. ::sobs:: I don’t know about you, but Sunday is such a melancholy, bittersweet day. It’s awesome because it’s still the weekend, but so much of the day is getting ready for the work week. I should really count my blessings. At least I have a job, right? Still, Sundays are a bit sad for me.

When I was planning this month’s blog posts (which has obviously gone really well, since I’ve been so quiet this month…), I had planned on having all of my lazy Sunday posts be about Christmas movies. I haven’t been watching much stuff recently, or Christmas stuff at that. So, I wasn’t sure I was even going to write today. My husband and I did watch a documentary that we checked out from the library, though, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot, so I am going to talk about that instead!

The last time we were at the library (which is surprisingly often), we checked out a documentary called Ivory Tower. This documentary had been on our radar for a while, but we have had the hardest time finding it. My husband just happened to be looking at the movies when he spotted it, and I’m really glad he did!

Ivory Tower is a documentary about the rising cost of college tuition, and the precarious position that those rising costs have on students. It covers some of the pros and cons of going to college (though I will be honest, the message of the movie is not very favorable about college). It also discusses the pros and cons of some of the current available alternatives. As someone who spent 7+ years in college earning both a Bachelors and Masters degree, the issue of student loans is one that is very near and dear to my heart. I was lucky to get our of college without too much debt, but starting a career with any amount of debt can cause issues in the long run.

One of the most interesting arguments in the movie was that colleges (specifically public ones, though private ones fall into this same trend) have increased their tuition so much in the last 40 years or so, partially to make up for government funding lost. The amount that they have increased tuition more than covers the deficit brought on by lack of government dollars. It has become less about sustaining the school, and more about competing with other schools to be more desirable for prospective students. Schools are charging tons of money to attend their school so they can afford to pay their administrators and build state of the art facilities. It is not uncommon for schools to spend millions of dollars on student centers and recreation centers with pools and climbing walls, along with fancy dorms, all for the purpose of bringing in more students so they can get more money. Where does it end?

Now, it’s not uncommon for students to graduate not only weighed down with debt, but also unable to find a job to help pay that money back. I am not working in my field, and most of my friends are not as well. We are all doing ok for ourselves, but it sometimes feels hard to justify all the money we have spend on getting degrees that did not really get us anywhere. It used to be that a person could attend college and pay for it with money they saved up from a summer job. That isn’t realistic anymore, unfortunately. There are other options, however. With technology, it’s becoming possible to learn how to do jobs without going to school. I am currently learning how to build websites without stepping foot into a classroom or spending money on classes. I am currently relying on free resources to learn the skills, and it’s working fairly well, I think. There are all kinds of places that are cheap or free to learn anything a person could want to know. These resources are generally taught by some of the best people in the field, or have the most up to date information available. The hard part is that you’re generally  alone when learning like this, but it’s always possible to use the power of the internet to network with people who are interested in learning the same things.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is that they covered this school called the Cooper Union, which is in New York. When it was opened in the 1800s, its founder believed that education should be free to whomever wanted to pursue it. He set up and endowment to keep classes at the Cooper Union free. It has remained that way since. Recently, they got a new president, who decided that they needed to start charging tuition. It seems that this was partially because of some bad financial decisions that were made, and also partially to cover his compensation, which is over $700,000 per year. When the board voted to start charging tuition, the students started protesting. Many signed a document stating that they have a vote of no confidence in the school’s president, and when the presented the document to him, they did it at the beginning of a two month long occupation of his office. It was an interesting and uplifting story, because it was really cool seeing students fight for something they believe in and fighting uphold a tradition that is over 100 years old. College does not have to cost money, at least not much, and having schools that make higher education more accessible to everyone are just the kinds of things that we need.

This documentary was sort of different from other ones I have been watching recently. It shows that there is a problem with the current state of affairs, but also shows that there are viable alternatives. Most documentaries show that there is a problem, but don’t always offer much in the way of a solution, so I appreciated it from Ivory Tower.

If you like documentaries or think that the rising cost of higher education is a problem, this is a fantastic documentary. It goes into detail about when things started to change and how. It discusses the current situation and how unsustainable it is. Even though I was in college not too long ago, I learned quite a bit about how some colleges run. I learned how much greed there is in the college and university system.

I don’t regret going to school because I got some good memories, and I learned some valuable lessons, but I don’t think that college is for everyone. With is becoming as expensive as it is today, I think it’s great that people are starting to look into alternatives. I hope that this documentary gets people talking and thinking about the issue and ways that I can be fixed.

So, I highly recommend Ivory Tower. Have you seen this or any other great documentaries recently? Let me know in the comments!

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