Income inequality has become so prevalent in the U.S. that examples of its negative impact on the middle class are as common as Kanye West saying something cringeworthy in the media. The latest jarring example reveals that while most students are either drowning in student loan debt or reconsidering going to college all together due to high costs, wealthy kids are boarding jets just to tour the country's top rated schools.
Newsweek detailed the extravagant travel arrangements rich would-be college students can take advantage of aboard Magellan jets:
"Magellan takes care of details such as setting efficient travel routes, arranging private campus tours and orchestrating ground transportation. Base price is jet-specific: 10 hours of air time on a light-size, seven-seater Hawker 400XP starts at $52,000, while the same package on the aforementioned super-midsize Gulfstream G200, which can seat up to 18, costs upward of $100,000."
While one trip on a Magellan jet costs more than a full year of tuition at Ivy Leagues, middle and working class students are struggling with astronomical student loans, which perfectly highlights the severe income inequality many are coping with. None of this is shocking once you consider that the top one percent now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent in the U.S.
There is currently more than $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loans, far surpassing the total amount of credit card debt at $712 billion. Keep in mind that student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy like other forms of debt. The average college graduate from a four year institution owes around $26,600, and a whopping 1.8 million Americans owe more than $100,000 in student loans.
If the U.S. is the richest country in the world, why is it also the most unequal? The "land of opportunity" now puts the middle class at an insane disadvantage when it comes to obtaining a college degree. School is supposed to be a great equalizer that leads to upward mobility regardless of the socioeconomic situation a child is born into. But these opportunities are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Paying for college is only half the battle. On the surface this just sounds like rich kids living a lavish lifestyle while everyone else struggles. But a closer look reveals just how deeply inequality hinders opportunities for the disadvantaged.
Colleges prefer to enroll wealthy students because they know it's more likely that they'll pay for full tuition without needing financial aid. They're also more likely to have parents who will donate large sums of money to the school. When the privileged students graduate, they're expected to join the alumni association and also donate cash.
Newsweek further explains:
Admissions departments favor wealthy students, even if their applications are weaker than those who are less privileged. Secondary education, after all, is a business. And no top-rated college got that way without donations for expensive libraries, prestige faculty hires and gaudy student centers.
Services like Magellan make sure that college officials are aware that rich kids using its jets are stopping by for a tour. When colleges run like businesses with the intention of making money, it's no surprise that this "tip" gives the wealthy prospects an upper hand in the admissions process. Most college campuses include a student body where less than half of students are from poor backgrounds. When looking at prestigious schools like Colombia or Yale, only 15 percent of students come from a low socioeconomic status.
Wealthy students also have a network of connections that work in their favor simply because they're financially privileged.
“We have a list of schools and customers who went there, and they’re able to make the [application] experience a little better by making the right introduction," said Magellan CEO Joshua Hebert.
Little by little, the U.S. has allowed questionable domestic policies to chip away at the only hope poor students have at a better future. The right wing loves to distract voters from these realities by making it seem as though the poor remain so because they lack the work ethic necessary to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps." As a result, we fight and degrade one another instead of focusing on changing a broken system that serves those who are already rich.
This is not a story about jets or other materialistic garbage. This is a story of what the U.S. has become - a land of opportunity by the rich and for the rich.