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.

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