by ROBERT MIRANDA
This fall, nearly 22 million students will attend some sort of higher education after high school, seeking to better their lives. What many of them may not realize is that the benefits of higher education—enrichment, possibilities of building a career—come with a very steep price; one that has almost exponentially trended upward.
According to budget.universityofcalifornia.edu and calstate.edu, the average University of California (UC) student will graduate with over $20,500 in debt, while the average California State University (Cal State) student will graduate with nearly $18,000 in debt. Nearly 70 percent of all college students will graduate with some sort of debt this year, and the average amount of student debt is approaching $30,000, according to usnews.com. Student debt makes up the second largest source of debt in America, next to mortgages.
Many point out that inflation—having drastically increased since the 1970s—is mostly responsible for such drastic tuition hikes. As the cost of living goes up, so does the cost of college. It seems simple enough. Yet, according to bloomberg.com, college tuition has outpaced the rate of inflation, increasing nearly every year since 1976. Adjusted for inflation, tuition at Cal State has increased nearly threefold since 1992. In November 2014, the University of California Board of Regents voted to raise tuition prices to 5 percent in the years leading up to 2020. While 5 percent may not seem like a lot, in the long run it adds up. The true effects can and will be seen two decades from now. Nationwide, however, the increase is not so drastic. According to collegeboard.com, increases in tuition and fees in public and private four-year schools were below 2 percent between 2013 and 2015.
Many colleges and universities also point to the decrease in state funding for many public state universities to explain why tuition has increased. In 1965, the state of California funded nearly 32 percent of the entire UC budget. Today, it funds only 15 percent. As universities have accepted more students, expanded course options and hired more administrative staff, there are invariably financial burdens that must be paid in some way, and it seems that student tuition is the answer.
There are many options for prospective students to consider. Trade schools prepare students and give hands-on experience for careers that require highly skilled training, such as electricians and dental assistants, according to thesimpledollar.com. In addition, these schools are similar to many colleges in that they use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to calculate financial aid for students. For those considering attending four-year universities, need-based scholarships are often generously bestowed, especially by many private institutions, in addition to merit-based scholarships and grants.
It seems unlikely that the costs of going to college will be decreasing any time in the near future. It also seems unlikely that any solution to make prices lower and more affordable for lower- and middle-class students will soon be implemented. These facts are not meant to discourage students from attending college, but what students can do is become more aware and receptive to ways that ease the financial burden and prevent running up major debts. The ideal solution to this problem, however, would be if states allocated more funds to support higher education and if there was accountability to be shown for the way colleges use these funds. The opportunity to further one’s education is a right that deserves to be enjoyed by anyone who seeks it, but all too often there are pitfalls and financial obstacles that prevent that.