Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why did I fill out the FAFSA again?

I believe that making more bills to offer financial aid to the middle class would make more students able to attend college. Simply making financial aid available to the lower class doesn't really solve the problem because that is only a small portion of students out of the entire population. All students are in a similar situation before college- we're all broke and struggling to come up with the money to pay for college. Students need to have access to more scholarships, grants, and loans in order to attend college for a reasonable price. There are already bills that would make more financial aid available to low income families, but many students in the middle class feel like they are forgotten.

This year I have spent many hours filling out paperwork and trying to get as many scholarships as possible. My parents made it clear that in order for me to attend a school other than a community college I would need to receive a large amount of financial aid. I filled out the FAFSA, along with countless other forms, only to be told that I am not eligible because my parents have already saved up too much money for my college education. According to the government we have enough to afford tuition, but the reality is that a substantial part of the money my parents have saved is set aside for their retirement and my three younger siblings’ college. It seems unfair that because my family has saved money and been responsible enough to prepare ahead of time, we are now being punished and told that the only financial aid we will receive is unsubsidized loans with huge interest rates. Being the oldest of four children, I know that my parents cannot afford to spend all their money on me when they have three other children to send to school. Unfortunately, it seems like the government does not see this.

I understand that low income students are in desperate need of financial aid. However, I would really like to see the government offer more to the middle class as well. Most people fall into the middle class, and yet many of us are not receiving the financial aid we need, and our families are struggling. The cost of college is getting out of hand, and it is also becoming more and more necessary to get a college education. Please help make college more affordable for all students, by supporting bills that provide more financial aid for the middle class.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tuition increases as financial aid decreases

As state governments are beginning to run out of money to give to college bound students, parents and students are beginning to worry about how they are going to pay for their education. Supposedly, the reasoning behind the shortage of grant money is due to the higher number of applicants this year compared to other years. Now, I do not doubt that this is true, but there probably is a reason behind the sudden increase in applications. In the past few years college tuition has increased tremendously causing families of college-aged kids to worry about their financial future. Due to this increased worry more and more students are applying for loans, grants, and scholarships to try and alleviate the cost of college. But there has to be another way to fix this problem.

Instead of colleges continuously raising their prices and causing students to suffer with the stresses of paying off their debt and loans, they should no longer be allowed to increase tuition, and actually should begin to lower them. There is no reason for a college with 20,000 people to charge each individual $30,000 per year. If colleges actually cost less, more people would be able to attend and colleges would not have to give out big financial aid packages. With more people in attendance and smaller amounts of money going out to students, these colleges would end up making more money than they already do. Of course, college is a business and for some reason many post-secondary schools are under the impression that they will appear superior with higher ticket prices.

It seems as if colleges are losing sight of their original purpose: to educate people so they can get jobs and make money as well as so that our country is more educated and can therefore be one of the powerhouses of the world. With the way tuition is going now less students will be able to attend college, our economy will suffer even more and the U.S. will continue to lose its credibility in the world.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Real meaning of tuition increases

College is no longer just a luxury for the few. It's becoming the expected step after high school for everyone to take, no matter what school you went to, how much money your parents make, or what your grades were throughout school. Obviously not everyone goes on to post-secondary education, but there still are a lot more people continuing on than ever before. That being said, colleges have continuously been raising their tuition because they know people are willing to pay. It has been ingrained in our minds that without a college education there is no way to get any decent job, we'll never make enough money, and we'll struggle our entire lives to make ends meet. Now, money isn't everything and it can't make you happy, but it definitely helps. Without the money from a good job, people are continuously struggling to support themselves and their family and instead of being able to spend time with their family's, they need to spend every extra moment of their life working so they can pay the bills. No one wants to live like this. It actually seems much easier to spend an extra four years in school, go to college, maybe even continue on and get higher degrees, and then be able to get a good job. Even if they will be paying off student loans for the rest of their life.

Colleges know this. They know people are willing to be in debt from school forever so they can get a good job and have "more" money, even though it's not really more if they're always paying off their loans. And they use this to their advantage. Adjusted to inflation, families pay 439% more on tuition since 1982. There are some colleges trying to help out students from lower and middle classes. For example, Harvard University uses money from their $35 billion endowment to make sure families making less than $60,000 pay nothing and families making from $60,000 to $180,000 only have to pay 10% of their income. Yale is using their $23 billion endowment to make sure that no one making under $120,000 pays more than 10% of their income. Although this is helpful for the few lucky people who get into colleges like Harvard, Yale and other Ivy Leagues, it does not help the majority of students - students wishing to attend state schools or other smaller private schools that perhaps don't have as large of an endowment.

What can colleges do? Sure, Ivy Leagues are trying to help, but they're still very expensive. And obviously federal aid from the FAFSA is not helping many students out since there are more students in college and government aid can only go so far. Also, loans are not always the answer because students do not always want to feel the pressures with paying off all their debt as soon as they graduate. What colleges can do, however, is offer more scholarships exclusive to their college. Many times scholarships that are open to any college student are won by the students with the highest GPA, the highest SAT/ACT, the longest list of extracurriculars, but usually these are the students already going to the best colleges, the colleges already trying to help students as much as possible. By making scholarships exclusive to the college people are competing against others just like them making it more fair and have a higher possibility to win the scholarship.

One more thing: colleges always want to be the most state-of-the-art college of their type, they always want to be the most updated. Yes, this is helpful. No one wants to go to a college with technology from the 80's, that won't help them when they get a job with 21st century technology and they've only learned to use 30 year old things. But some colleges take it too far. For example, last year Wesleyan University created a brand new state-of-the-art film center, new fitness facility, 11-building arts complex, as well as a $47 million student center. This all seems nice to the students wanting to go there, but it had to have been paid for somehow - with everyone's tuition. This college could have survived without the multi-million dollar student center and saved everyone's tuition money. But instead they got ahead of themselves, built it and now their current and future students are paying for it. Wesleyan isn't the only college guilty of this. A lot of schools are building new student centers, recreation centers, renovated dorms, just to get more people to want to come. But with all that comes a higher price. And with higher prices comes more students struggling not just with keeping up with grades, but also being able to pay off all their debt.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Is it worth it?

The idea has been drilled into the minds of millions of students for years and years. Teachers, parents, administrators, bosses, and friends-- I've probably heard the advice thousands of times over the course of my life. But as I prepare to head off to college (and spend thousands of dollars, putting myself in debt for years) I can't help but wonder if I'm really doing the right thing. Has the cost of college grown to the point where I would be better off saving my money and getting a job that does not require a college degree? And if college really is so important, why is it so difficult for middle class students (the category most students fall into) to get the scholarships, grants, and loans necessary to attend college.

For an average student, a 4 year college degree can cost anywhere from about $70,000 to $150,000. For that price, it is hard to justify going to a school that costs more than double what an in-state public school costs. This is why more and more students are trying to find alternate ways to get a college degree, forcing them to make tough sacrifices in order to make it work. It's easy for the government to say that they are giving out "more financial aid to those who need it". Well, that’s great, but the reality is that most people in the middle class won't see any of that money. Most people are trapped in a catch-22: too rich to receive aid, and too poor to be realistically expected to pay for school. Yes, our parents might have money. But as a student, I don't. And with four kids to put through college, my parents really don't either.

Even if a student does quailify for aid, they have tough decisions ahead of them. It's hard to decide whether it is worth it to put yourself thousands and thousands of dollars in debt just to attend the college of your dreams. The reality is- it's not worth it. Many of us think think better of a student from Harvard than one from a community college. But a few years after college, employers care more about what you've done after school than during school. If you can go to a community college, and get out of school with less debt, you're more likely to be able to build a portfolio of accomplishments that will impress future employers. Meanwhile, that Harvard graduate will be living on the street desperately trying to earn enough money to pay his bills. He will constantly be playing "catch-up" instead of being the successful person he strived to be. I realize that this is just a hypothetical situation, but as a student its something I know we're all thinking about.