College costs higher than ever
Kristen Tomins and Charlotte Vernia
It’s no secret that the cost of a college education has drastically increased over the past few decades. However, what does this really mean for future students?
Students and their parents spend thousands of dollars per semester to pay for a college or university in hopes of earning a promising degree for their future. However, many students will spend that money earned from their degree paying off the average $25,842 in loan debt, according to cnbc.com.
Ohio is ranked No. 10 on the top 10 list of states with the highest student debt amounts. About 66 percent of students attending an Ohio college or university graduate with student loan debt. The No. 1 spot is held by the District of Columbia, where 51 percent of students graduate with $30,033 in loan debt.
The costs keep rising and are currently at their highest point, now exceeding United States credit card debt, according to msnbc.com, and “USA Today.” Students, and their parents, are struggling to pay these extensive bills only to be bombarded with more debt after graduation.
Unfortunately, since family incomes have been falling for the last three years, even with help from scholaraships and financial aid, tuition costs are taking up a higher percentage of most families’ incomes, says Sandy Baum, an economist who is the lead author of the College Board’s report.
According to Kim Clark in a report published in CNNmoney, the average cost of college increased over 5 percent from the fall of 2010 to the fall of 2011. This puts the average sticker price of a public university education at $21,447.
As many students do choose to move on to graduate school, the costs and debt amounts continue to rise, which has many students asking, is it even worth it?
Bowling Green State University Admissions Counselor Anthony Giannell says, “It depends [on] what you’re going into…For example, most education majors go on to get their master’s degree to keep their teaching license. Many business majors also go on to get their MBA.”
Moving on to graduate school may be very useful for specific majors, as getting an upgraded degree may promise a higher-paying salary.
“It definitely can make you more profitable to other companies, which could be the determining factor for whether or not you get the job, or someone else,” says Giannell.
Giannell explains that the economy has improved enough today that going onto graduate school isn’t always necessary, unlike a few years ago.
“It used to be that whether or not you went to grad school was what set you apart from everyone else,” says Giannell.
Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships at Indiana University East, Sarah Soper agrees that, “There is much research that shows, overall, students may earn more with high degrees, but there are variables to be considered…Those decisions need to be made on a case by case basis.”
However, many students have also been voicing their demands for student loan forgiveness, which is available through specific grants for certain majors.
For example, one pursuing a career in education may be eligible for a grant called the TEACH grant. This promises $4,000 per year to the student while the student agrees to teach in a high-need area school system for at least four years, within eight years after graduating. After the four years, the student’s loans are forgiven, and the $4,000 does not have to be paid back, unless the student switches his or her major early on.
Plenty of majors, however, do not have a guarantee of loan forgiveness, which leaves students graduating college already behind. According to cnn.com, 17 million college graduates were unemployed in 2008, leaving students unable to make a dent in paying off their loans.
According to nydailynews.com, students across the U.S., combined, owe $1 trillion in loan debt, as of March 22, 2012.
HHS graduate, and a current Ohio State University freshman, Ally Zeleznik expresses her concern about the increasing costs of college, “I think that it’s a serious problem that while a higher education is extremely important, our financial risks by furthering that education are rising at an alarming rate.”
Zeleznik does not pay for her undergraduate education, but does anticipate paying for graduate school herself.
“I will be in school for 7-8 years before I become a physical therapist…I’m concerned for the cost of graduate school because I pay for that myself,” says Zeleznik.
One of the major causes of the hikes in college costs is because of inflation. According to FinAid.com, on average, tuition tends to increase about 8% per year. An 8% college inflation rate means that the cost of college doubles every nine years. For a baby born today, this means that the cost of college will be more than three times current rates when the child attends college
This means that if the current trend continues, by the time a child born today reaches the point of a higher level education, it will cost them on average, $64,341per year.
“[BGSU] is only 22 percent state-funded, so when the state decides to cut funding, it means we have to make up for money lost, and unfortunately that means increasing tuition expenses,” explains Giannell.
Because colleges generally upgrade their technology and other resources more often than the typical American family, they are more prone to higher inflation rates. They also have to consider raises and salaries for professors, who are known to be underpaid from the start.
As more and more students want a higher education and want to attend college, the higher the price goes, just like in any other store one walks into. When something is in high demand, the price soars.
Other obvious causes of heightening college prices include scholarship availability, financial aid availability and whether or not a student can productively finish his or her college education within four years.
Scholarships are practically everywhere, but if one student doesn’t receive as much as they’d hoped or planned for, then they are one of the many who have to pay full price for college.
Soper recommends students start the financial processes early, “Look into options from your high school, college of choice and most of all complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid each year even if you don’t think you will qualify for anything.”
Giannell, and Valerie Miller, Director of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships at Ohio University highly recommend working a part-time job while attending school.
“Even though most campus jobs only pay minimum wage, every little bit helps,” says Giannell.
In order to cut down on costs and avoid debt, Giannell also recommends not only applying for scholarships and loans, but also to be wary of how you spend your money.
“Some students apply for federal loans, which you have to pay back, but they use that money for other things besides their education costs. They use it to buy groceries or go on spring break,” says Giannell.
Giannell and Miller put emphasis on making sure you do not take more than you need. In other words, don’t take loans that aren’t absolutely necessary, and “be smart about borrowing,” says Giannell.
Miller also states that borrowing wisely in school is the best solution to avoiding student debt.
“Once federal student loan debt is incurred, students may work with the U.S. Department of Education to select a repayment plan that is best suited to their circumstances and income level,” advises Miller.
Although it seems as though there are no guaranteed solutions to the problem of inflation and scholarship distribution, most colleges are working on creating new scholarships, and helping a student arrange their schedule in such a way that they can take many classes per semester to graduate sooner, avoiding adding on another year of tuition costs.