Opinion: College needs to be affordable
By Macie Zimmerman
Seniors are faced with making the decision about their plans after high school and while many students easily decide to further their education, paying for secondary education is not as easy.
At Bettendorf High School, 97 percent of 90 seniors said they plan on attending college after high school and of that 97 percent, 77 percent said they will need financial aid in order to attend college. In the United States, 86 percent of first year students receive some form of financial aid. This figure is staggering, and as a nation, it needs to be addressed.
College tuition has never been so expensive. In the past 20 years, the price has increased at an annual rate of 6.8 percent. According to the College Board, the average cost for a private university (tuition and board) in 2021 was $50,770 per year and the average price for public university was $22,180. With an alarming stagnant average annual income of about $60,000 and the increasing price of college, many students must take out student loans to manage college expenses.
In 2019, 69 percent of college students took out loans to help pay for their college expenses. Although student loans have been made more accessible, the thought of paying back thousands of dollars of debt is abhorrent. Today, 1 in 8 Americans carry student loan debt. In the United States, student loan debt totals $1.73 trillion with over 44.7 million borrowers and is the highest the student loan debt has ever been. Moreover, the debt is growing six times faster than the nation's economy.
Not only is a college education more expensive than ever, it is also more important than ever, which begs the question: how is the cost of college fair to the majority of Americans who cannot afford to pay it? According to the U.S. Department of Education, two-thirds of jobs in 2020 required a post secondary degree. Furthermore, people with an undergraduate degree are less likely to be unemployed and they earn 66 percent more money than someone with only a high school diploma. Additionally, those with an undergraduate degree are estimated to make $1 million more than a person with only a high school diploma, over the course of their lifetime.
It seems as if the U.S. penalizes Americans who cannot afford to pay for college. Today, many young adults must decide between pursuing higher education with hopes of paying off student loan debt or accepting a career that does not provide the possibility of long term financial independence, a possibility that is more often than not severely crippled by student debt. If college is meant to be a sustainable path toward economic prosperity, both societally and independently, then the cost must be a minor speed bump and not the daunting barrier it currently is.
Macie Zimmerman is a senior. This is her first year
as a staff writer for The Growl.