Is college too expensive?


Fall. The season that paints the trees with colorful shades of orange and red. The season that brings football games and bright stadium lights on a Friday night with it. The season that consists of homecoming, parades, and dances. This season, most high school students are completely focused on these things. But for high school seniors, there is another thing occupying the space in their minds: college applications.

Every fall a new group of seniors starts the daunting process of applying to colleges and making one of their first big life decisions. Many students have high aspirations and send their overflowing applications to the desks of admissions offices at some of the most prestigious universities in the country. For some seniors, this fall will deliver an acceptance letter, and some will be required to wait just a little bit longer. 

Many factors will come into play when the seniors make their final decisions about where they will attend college next year. These factors include—but are not limited to—location, programs, and cost. 

Scattered through the news on TV and social media, the democratic candidates can be seen preaching for college to be free for all U.S. citizens. These politicians believe that higher education should be accessible to anyone regardless of their family’s income. This issue is like a double-edged sword. In one respect, college should be free, and nobody should be denied the opportunity based on financial limitations. But in the other respect, a cost-free college experience could be taken advantage of like the way that it is in some high schools. 

The only reasonable compromise for regular working Americans and these politicians is to reduce the cost of a college education. 

Colleges have been trying to bring up their end of the bargain by creating numerous scholarships and offering financial and grant-based aid, but for some families, all that will never be enough. 

An article published on CNBC in mid-June 2015 attempted to explain the reason for the cost of college. The article stated that recently more and more people have begun to ask themselves the question, “is college really worth it?” 

The article stated that recently more and more people have begun to ask themselves the question, “is college really worth it?””

Many families are still answering this with a “yes,” knowing that people with college degrees have a significantly higher annual income than people with only a high school diploma. 

Another large factor in the cost of colleges is the reputation. Colleges that are preferred over others or have a reputation as a “better” school can raise tuition as high as they please and will still receive thousands of applications. 

Take the University of Michigan (U of M) for example. It seems that at least 60% of the high school seniors graduating from FHC that plan on attending college have the University of Michigan placed at the top of their list. This will never change. U of M could raise its tuition rates by a few thousand dollars every year, and this would not change the demand for a degree that has the University of Michigan inscribed on it. 

Especially for in-state students, higher education should not cost what it does. For Michigan residents, the University of Michigan costs on average $29,500 a year to attend. Multiply this by the four years that most students need to complete their degree, and it adds up to a shocking $118,000. $118,000 for an education. This number is larger than some people’s annual salary, so why do colleges expect students to pay this?

Colleges expect students to pay so much money simply because it is the amount that they have to charge. Higher enrollment in college has caused a higher number of financial aid that needs to be given. On top of this, colleges are receiving less financial support from state governments. 

There has to be a middle ground, right? There has to be a cost of attendance that provides the university with enough money to continue running, but, at the same time, eliminates the burden on many families. 

For thirteen years, students are provided with a completely free education if they choose to attend public schools, but those who opt to attend a private school are required to pay for it. Public universities should be able to lower tuition rates significantly for easier access to all families. Though it should not be free, because college should be a privilege and the students there should want to be there, it should be more affordable for the majority of people. If students and their families choose to attend a private, non-profit college, they should be prepared to pay for that just as people do for private elementary, middle, and high schools. An education shouldn’t be denied to someone on financial terms. 

Students in the United States who want to attend college are already at a disadvantage from students living in the rest of the world. Colleges and universities in the United States cost close to double the price that they cost in Europe and Canada, and this only hurts the students. 

This fall, the school hallways will be plastered with signs announcing the homecoming spirit days and the dates of the football games. This fall, many seniors will be applying to colleges. This fall, many families will be dreading the cost of college. Should a higher education really cost as much as it does? Should families nation-wide have to struggle to come up with the money or bury themselves in debt? Or should colleges lower their costs for the sake of their students and families?