It is no secret that a college education is expensive, and in the past few years, it has hit an all-time high with no signs of slowing down. With the recession and the cost of living also increasing, it is becoming more difficult for students to pay for tuition and therefore earn degrees. This results in a surplus of high school graduates settling for minimum wage jobs in order to avoid the thousands of dollars of debt they might accumulate by going to college.
For those students who do go to college, only the lucky minority will receive scholarships or federal grants. According to a recent article in Yahoo! News, more than 36 million Americans have accumulated student debt. Although President Obama wants to decrease the cap on student loans, the cost of tuition should be addressed with equal urgency or fewer students will want to attend college.
Collegeboard.com displays average college tuitions on its website. Average in-state tuition for a public school is about $7,605 per year, while out-of-state schools charge an average of $11,990. Private schools average $27,293, all of these numbers including fees. Obviously there are large outliers to these averages, such as America’s most expensive college, Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, NY, which averages out to $58,334 in tuition and fees according to Forbes.com.
These staggering numbers dissuade many students, who may not have significant family contributions, from attending college. Add the cost of room, board, and books and you’ve increased the price of college significantly. If you take more than the recommended average of 15 credit hours, your total will increase as well.
However, while many people can’t afford a college degree, it is becoming significantly more difficult to find a job without one. With job cuts and layoffs, it is almost necessary to have a degree to get a job a step higher than flipping burgers. In fact, if you have a degree, you could still be flipping burgers due to the scarcity of jobs.
The inability of many college graduates to find work straight out of college that will help them pay back their loans is a giant problem. The average loan allows a six-month grace period before interest hits, with the assumption that the graduate will have found work in that time. In today’s job market, there are no such guarantees and the expensive tuition the student needed loans for will become even more expensive once interest is tacked on.
If the cost of tuition continues to rise, how will colleges continue to expect large enrollment numbers? When students do enroll, the financial burden may force them to drop out before receiving a college degree. More than ever, enrollment into community colleges has skyrocketed to relieve the financial burden.
Not only are community colleges cheaper in tuition, but a student can transfer out after two years and essentially pay for only two years at the more expensive four-year institution. Students who cannot move on from community college can graduate with an associate’s degree but will not have the same ability as those with a bachelor’s to move up in their prospective lines of work. It is unfortunate that in order to make a decent living, many students must first go into debt.
So is there a solution to this problem? It is definitely not a problem that has gone unnoticed and many people have cried foul over the continual rise in tuition prices. However, if America does not lower its college tuition rates, we may have the same situation as Chile is currently experiencing.
The Chilean education system, closely modeled on the United States’ public and private universities, is being protested by thousands of students fed up with the expenses. In a September protest, over 180,000 students stormed the capital and demanded education reform. If America is not careful, a similar situation could arise.
The solution to the problem may have to start with the students. However, the most radical ways to bring attention to the problem would be protests and boycotts, neither of which is a guarantee of reformation of the system. The state governments must put legislation for this into action.
However, for now at least, our president is more concerned with putting a cap on federal loans than simply increasing money spent on education. If the government would increase the amount of money spent on education, the states would receive more money to delegate to their universities and be able to lower their tuition. Of course, this excludes private institutions which do not receive federal assistance in funding. But not nearly as many students would need to apply for loans, and federal grants and scholarships could be sufficient for a larger number of people. Unfortunately, with significant cuts in education funding, it does not seem like this is a possibility at this time.
Writing your local senator never hurt, but the next presidential election is rapidly approaching. As candidates state their platforms, vote for those more likely to put in effect legislation for education reform. With the recession still hurting many in the United States and many other issues taking center stage on politicians’ platforms, it may be difficult to bring attention to higher education and the need for more education spending in order to effect lower tuition. If enough people ask for it, however, politicians will know there could be a large population of voters who would easily vote for them if they instate legislation to lower college tuition.
Perhaps the job market will get better and it will be easier to recuperate after the thousands of dollars spent on one’s degree. Or maybe the recession will end and funding for education will be restored. But as prices of virtually everything increase, that of a college education may continue to increase as well.
As a college student, I have experienced the brunt of the financial burden, and money continuously dictates decisions in my everyday life. I know that money was a large factor in choosing a school and some schools I had to automatically rule out due to the high costs. I have many friends who are paying for school with loans and I would be too if I hadn’t received scholarship money or if my parents weren’t contributing to my education.
Unfortunately, for now it seems that students in the United States will have to wait for a solution – unless they themselves try something drastic to alter this unfair system.