Student wallets feel the squeeze

With tuition and associated fees reaching well over $2,000 per term, Portland State wants us to dig deeper into our pockets and come up with an additional $594 per term to pay for the cost of health insurance. Since its 2012 inception, this has become a mandatory priority. Are there any reasons, other than the ostensibly noble theory that it is necessary to have this insurance in the unlikely event that a student becomes injured?

It seems like students should be given the choice to opt out. Tens of thousands of PSU alumni before us did just fine without the university mandate that we have health insurance.

Why are we as a school and a nation suddenly having insurance mandates foisted into our laps from all sides? If I was paying attention in macroeconomics, it seems true to me that the sudden requirement that everyone purchase health insurance could lead to demand-side inflation. The insurance companies, along with PSU, can simply raise rates without worrying about those who opt out. Of course, this is just speculation. We will have to wait and see if the cost of student health insurance is more expensive in the following years.

I’m not saying that I’m not for everyone having health insurance. No, I believe quite the opposite. I am all for universal health coverage, I am just not a fan of making every student purchase expensive health insurance. That is, if they are not lucky enough to find themselves already covered by their parents or their employer’s health insurance. Students being required to purchase health insurance is a far cry from the free healthcare that the working poor, as well as the lower-middle class, should be receiving.

The money that would and should be spent on free universal healthcare, however, is squandered by the federal government on the $600 billion defense budget. The Pentagon would like citizens to believe that if we make even slight reductions in our defense budget, it is going to give the terrorists, and other amorphous and ill-defined apparitions, the opening they need to make a devastating strike against America. An example of this fear-mongering orchestrated by the military and the media came in the form of a Forbes Magazine article from 2013 called “Budget cuts are killing military preparedness.”

I really love the visual this title paints. It makes it seem like military preparedness is a living, breathing creature that is worthy of $600 billion, and that if we deny this money, the picture embedded in the article of the Forbes website will come to pass. The picture is of a soldier carrying another wounded soldier. Basically, the media would have us believe that cuts in the defense budget lead directly to dead soldiers, rather than potentially happier students with less of a student loan burden.

To compound the matter of the federal government squandering our tax dollars, the amount of money from the state of Oregon that goes to higher education is almost inconsequential. According to a report produced by the Oregon University System entitled “Higher Education and the Oregon Economy,” Oregon ranks 45th among U.S. states in the amount of money it provides per student toward higher education. This ranking is laughable and really makes me wonder if it’s time for the Legislature to get rid of the kicker and send that money to the college students of Oregon.

For those of you who are not familiar with the kicker, according to the state of Oregon website, “The 1979 Oregon Legislature passed the ‘2 percent kicker’ law, which requires the state to refund excess revenue to taxpayers when actual general fund revenues exceed the forecast amount by more than 2 percent.”

The state of Oregon has long been criticized for not putting this kicker away in a rainy day fund. The fact that corporations are also privy to a refund raises the question of fairness.

I spoke of a rainy day, and it has been very rainy for this state the last few years. Tuition costs seem to rise every year, with no noticeable reprieve from the state. Students in this state are facing many challenges, and we need every edge that we can get. Students at PSU need the flexibility to opt out of a health insurance plan that will set them back nearly $1,800 a year. They also need help from the Legislature, and that help has been sorely missing.