The United States boasts the title of the “land of equal opportunity.” Many believe that our systems are set up in a way where success was attainable to everyone. Sure, some people were always more privileged, but everyone got the freedom for a good life. A freedom for “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.” This is a famous phrase ripped right from The Declaration of Independence. What exactly did our forefathers mean by this clause? Happiness meant something a little different in the 1700s. Although happiness as it’s said today refers to a sort of self-gratification and pleasure, that’s not what Jefferson had in mind. The word largely had to do with one’s ability to contribute to society Many would argue that everyone has the equal opportunity to escape poverty or even obtain a meaningful career.Nowadays, this would most certainly refer to an education. Maybe back in the day, there was no need to address education. You could easily make a decent living with minimal schooling. A college degree used to be an extra qualification for certain careers. However, this is not the case anymore. Most entry level jobs want to see some sort of proof that you attended college. This is not only making college degrees necessary for a shot at a job, but so expected that many college graduates are struggling to find any sort of employment opportunities. Although there are minimum wage jobs that require no sort of education qualifications, one could hardly count them as making a living. According to federal requirements, the annual earnings for a full-time, minimum wage worker is just over $15k. This means that, in many states, people with these full-time jobs will still remain in poverty. Although there are many states that operate above the federal minimum wage, it is hardly ever enough. In fact, there is not a single state in the U.S. where a full-time minimum wage job could even support renting a two-bedroom home. Most people (especially families) need more than a minimum wage job to support themselves. Now, how exactly would one land one of the jobs? Education level serves as a significant indicator of how much someone can expect to earn. The higher your degree, the more you are predicted to make. The question is, how high does your education have to be to be able to provide adequate support? In order for someone to support a family, they are going to have to be making at least 44k. These estimates rise all the way to 67k for more expensive areas like Massachusetts and Connecticut. The median salary of someone with no college education is only $35,256 per year. Data shows that to even reach that 44k you are going to need a bachelor’s degree.If a bachelor’s degree is something that data reports you need to support a family, college is no longer a luxury. Yet, the United States treats it like that. For the 2017-2018 academic year, the average price for a year of college was $25,290 and $50,900 for state and private institutions respectively. That’s not even enough for a degree! In order to even get an associate’s, you are looking at two years -to reach that bachelors you are looking at an average for four. Even working full time, there is no way that the average person can afford tuition on top of rent and food. Unless, of course, you take on tremendous amounts of debt. The average graduate from the 2016 academic year has $37,172 in student loan debt. Unfortunately, this number will only increase. From an individualistic perspective, this number is going to rise with interest rates. On a larger scale, college prices continue to raise every year. In fact, 2016 averages were up 6% from 2016! Although American education has always been rather expensive, it wasn’t always this bad. Even taking inflation into account, it used to be possible for someone to pay for college on their own. The costs of tuition has more than doubled since the late 80s. Unfortunately, changes in income have not. This is a huge problem because many Americans are forced to chose between crippling debt or having no education. This can really lock lower income individuals in a vicious cycle of poverty while leaving the wealthy at an advantage. This is certainly not how anyone would define equal opportunity. Other countries have recognized the importance of education. Even compared to countries with similar incomes and standards of living, U.S. tuitions costs are notoriously high. There are even several countries (such as Germany, Finland, and Denmark) that offer free education for everyone. It is understandable that if the U.S. wants to refrain from socialist taxing strategies, we cannot expect free higher education. However, it is ridiculous that we can’t make college more affordable. There is a lot of criticism over how colleges spend their money. While there is a generous amount of money that goes towards scholarships and salaries, there is no way that the college needs all of that money. Colleges are “non-profit,” so it is not like someone is directly making millions over hiking up tuition prices. However, many are critical about how the remainder of the budget is used. Colleges are legally required to publicly share their spending. One man investigating Colgate’s spending found millions of dollars with pretty unclear spending. $11.8 million had paid for outside consultants, $8 million on travel expenses, $4.2 million to top officials, and $25 million was filed under other! Considering this is a hefty chunk of the $162 million they spent that year.Colleges can be much more efficient with their spending. We don’t need ridiculous renovations or outrageously paid administration. We need affordable tuition! We are past the times where a college education is optional. Educational opportunities shouldn’t be limited to the wealthy and those willing to put themselves in debt. Education is a right, one that is certainly be considered an entitled pursuit of happiness.