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College Tuition: Burden or Motivator?

by David Hamilton ’17

It’s no secret that prices have risen tremendously in the past few decades. College tuition is among one of the most distinguished increases and its influence is becoming even more widespread as more high school graduates are enrolling in college more than ever.

The difference between a single generation is enough to show just how much the cost for college has shifted. According to CNBC, students at public four-year institutions paid roughly $3,190 for the 1987-88 academic school year, while the 2017-18 school year averaged around nearly $10,000. Alongside tuition, other costs for attendance such as housing, meal plans, and books have increased similarly. Also, tuitions of private institutions have increased even more in the same period from an average of $15,000 to almost $35,000 respectively. Furthermore, a significant difference between now and then is the affordability factor. Students in 1987 were more likely able to work and afford tuition, while on the other hand, in 2012, nearly 75% of graduates had debt.

The concerning part is we have no idea when these increases will plateau. USA Today reports a steady increase for the future of college tuition with no signs of slowing.

As more of the younger generations get through college, tuition has been influencing the economy as well. The burden of such large student loans is preventing recent grads from spending money elsewhere. This is becoming more of a problem as more students graduate. This may be hurting some industries and helping the education industry, but graduates are becoming more conscious about their spending.

However, there are some good things coming out of this increase. The younger generations seem to be more open to the idea of getting graduate degrees. This may be most likely due to the thought that debt is already on their shoulders and it may be worth getting a higher degree to help pay it off. Recent grads also seem to be more open to discussing their finances. As many people are experiencing similar financial struggles, people are coming together to solve the issues now more than ever. A sense of solidarity seems to be forming among college students and graduates, and a productive one at that. This same solidarity is forming around social justice issues around the country and much more. Times are changing, and the question is no longer when are things going to change, but instead how those changes are going to be accomplished.

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