The cost of higher education tuition is rising quickly, causing over 50% of college freshmen to be concerned about affording college. This percentage is the highest it has been since 1971 (Marill and O’Leary 64-66, 93). Additionally, college graduates are accumulating debt at an alarming rate. Because of high unemployment rates and limited job opportunities, college graduates find themselves in long-term debt. Although grants and financial aid options are available, students still struggle to pay for their tuition expenses.
Although some argue that higher education is still affordable, the truth is that it has become extremely expensive. This increase in costs can be attributed to multiple factors such as low state revenue, high unemployment rates, and graduates’ difficulty in repaying loans. The main reason for the unaffordability of higher education is the inadequate revenue and growing debt of states. As tax revenues decrease, many states are forced to make budget cuts, resulting in higher tuition fees and changes within colleges.
Some alterations that have occurred include an increase in student to faculty ratios, a decrease in the number of classes but an increase in class sizes, and a reduction in on-campus jobs that typically help support students (Hulsey 24). These modifications have an impact on students and influence their perceptions and choices regarding specific colleges. Additionally, the cost of tuition has been steadily increasing by approximately 6 percent per year over the past decade (Marill and O’Leary 64-66, 93). This percentage inevitably makes it more challenging for students to find a college that is affordable. Moreover, the high cost of tuition prevents some individuals from attending their desired college.
These changes have a direct impact on students and the increasing tuition fees. The financial struggles of different states have led to reduced financial support for colleges. Before the 1980s, a majority of public universities used to receive over 70% of their operating budgets from their respective states. However, now most universities receive less than 50% (Hulsey 24). In the case of the University of Michigan, the percentage is even lower, at less than seven percent (Hulsey 24). Many schools have been severely affected by these statistics.
According to an article by Hulsey, several universities experienced a decrease in state contributions to their 2009-10 operating budget. UCLA’s contribution dropped by $189 million, University of Florida saw a decrease of $109 million, University of Washington experienced a drop of $99 million, and LSU had a decrease of $63 million. These figures were reported in a New York Times article by Paul Fain on November 1, 2009. The percentage decline ranged from 33 percent at UCLA to 27 percent at LSU. Consequently, states are under pressure to make up for this loss by increasing tuition fees.
Grant donors are reducing their contributions to students, making it increasingly difficult for college students to afford their education. The affordability issues are not solely caused by low state revenues; high unemployment rates also play a role. In December 2009, the national unemployment rate was ten percent (Boskin 22-27). Particularly, individuals aged twenty to twenty-four faced an unemployment rate of fifteen percent (Dickler). These statistics indicate that there is still a high level of unemployment, significantly hindering college students in finding employment opportunities.
Students face tough competition for jobs due to the high overall unemployment rate in the nation, making it very difficult for them. Additionally, affording college becomes even more challenging and the process of paying off student loans takes longer without jobs. The limited job opportunities have led many young adults to inevitably move back home. According to a report by Dickler, in May of last year, 85% of college seniors planned to move back home after graduation. This statistic may seem unreasonable but is seen as unavoidable by most. Interestingly, this percentage has increased from 67% in 2006 (Dickler).
Due to the limited job opportunities available, many graduates feel compelled to return to their parents’ homes. This temporary living arrangement allows them to accumulate more savings before venturing out on their own once again. However, it is becoming increasingly common for graduates to remain at home for an extended period, sometimes even a year or more (Dickler). Although this further postpones the transition into independent adulthood, it enables students to amass a more secure financial foundation. Additionally, the high unemployment rate further hampers students’ ability to promptly repay their loans.
According to Hulsey (24), nearly 66% of college students graduate with some level of debt. This debt at the time of graduation causes significant concerns and worries for students. The average student loan debt for college seniors in 2008 was $23,000, marking a six percent increase from $18,650 in 2004 (Hulsey 24). Such figures pose a heavy burden for students when it comes to repaying these loans. In addition to covering tuition expenses, students also need to allocate funds for hidden costs including books and supplies, which Mannes (108) suggests could amount to over $850 annually.
All these costs combined make it difficult for students to afford college. The increasing number of students resorting to loans to finance their education is a concerning trend. According to Marill and O’Leary (64-66, 93), the percentage of first-year students taking out loans is at its highest point since 1971. This growing number of loans obtained by students without parental assistance is further compounded by an increase in unemployed parents (Marill and O’Leary 64-66, 93). Consequently, students frequently struggle with repaying these loans.
According to Long, approximately 33% of students find the debt burden to be overwhelming (27-38). Certain professions have salaries that contribute to students being unable to manage their debts. Individuals who pursue a career in teaching have a 23% likelihood of facing unmanageable debt burden. Similarly, fields like social work present challenges for students as they struggle to repay their loans due to low job salaries (Long 27-38). This situation adds significant stress to students and may also impact their decision when choosing a major.
The impact of loans extends to multiple areas of life, including the field of study, college choice, purchasing a house, and other long-term decisions (Long 27-38). These factors collectively contribute to challenges faced by students in affording higher education. On the contrary, there are those who argue that higher education remains affordable thanks to government grants, loans, and other forms of financial aid available to most students. Additionally, certain professions pursued by recent college graduates may lead to the forgiveness of their student loans. Nevertheless, a considerable number of students still depend on loans for financing their higher education expenses.
According to Hulsey (24), student loan repayment can be challenging, resulting in many students graduating with debt. Moreover, loans add stress and financial difficulties for students, especially those with limited job prospects and low incomes. Certain students are unable to obtain grants or financial aid, making it even more difficult for them to afford college. Ultimately, factors like reduced state revenue and increased unemployment rates impede equal access to higher education for all students.
One reason for this issue is the inability of students to repay their loans. About 66% of college freshmen worry about financing their education, and a similar percentage graduate with debt (Marill and O’Leary 64-66, 93). The high cost of tuition fees and loan burdens significantly impact individuals, leading many students to consider these financial factors when making decisions about their future plans. As the true cost of pursuing higher education becomes clear, the dreams and goals of many high school students undergo transformations. Consequently, higher education becomes unattainable for numerous students.