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Why College Tuition Should be Lowered

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What could you do with $14,000? Well, you could buy 4,000 Whoppers with that money. You could also buy 35 IPads, and 4 80 inch flat screen TVs. Or, instead of those things, you could buy yourself one year’s worth of college tuition. Does it seem a little unusual that only one year of tuition costs that much? It might be if you live outside of America; the United States is one of the biggest spenders on secondary education compared to other countries. The current cost for college tuition is too high, and should be lowered since it is detrimental to our generation. The main reasons that tuition should be lowered is so that kids have easier and cheaper access to higher education, so that children born into poverty have a chance to make a better life for themselves, and so that the amount of student debt in America is decreased. Currently, kids do not have very easy or inexpensive access to higher education due to the increasing cost of tuition and the decreasing amount of scholarships being awarded.

Aside from tuition, state colleges fund academics mostly by state appropriations. In 2009 and 2010, public colleges had to handle cuts in those appropriations, which were the largest in the decade. To make up for this, colleges made 9-13% cuts to public research and master’s and bachelor’s institutions. To make up for these cuts, tuition was raised by an average of 5-7% above inflation. In the same way, state funded scholarships are being decreased because of these cuts. The requirements to attain these scholarships are being tightened to decrease the number of students eligible for the scholarships. Some state colleges have completely cut their support for these scholarship programs to compensate for their state funding being cut. The student’s shouldn’t bear the weight of these cuts on their shoulders, especially since when they graduate, they will be new to adult life.

These cuts could be handled by making cuts in the advertising, athletics, and design sections. Surprisingly, the funds for these areas were left untouched if raising the tuition could cover the budget cuts. In the first half of 2013, colleges spent around $570,500 just in advertising. Portions of this money could easily be spent on giving out scholarships to students who need it. In 2010, on average, colleges spent $91,936 per athlete; three times more than they spent per student (this heavy spending results in debt in nearly every college).To make up for this loss in money, colleges compensate by raising the tuition. Colleges have also spent millions on making luxury dorms and new dining halls, and making the campus more ideal for potential attendees. When budget cuts are made, colleges will raise tuition instead of cutting budgets from these sections; in fact, tuition money pays for these things to begin with.

This is unfair to the average student who should not have to pay for the advertising, decoration, and athletics program for the school. Another reason why it is not easy or affordable for kids to attain a higher education is the fact that the minimum wage is not increasing with the skyrocketing tuition prices. In 1980, to be able to work minimum wage and pay off a 4 year private college tuition, you would have to work 1,112 hours. In 2010, you would have to work 3,201 hours on minimum wage to pay for tuition. Keep in mind, 2,080 hours is the equivalent of a full time, full year job. These numbers do not include other living expenses. It is impossible for a student in this day and age to go to work and pay off college without taking out a student loan. These huge student loans are disadvantageous to people new to the work force. What happens to people who cannot rely on their family to help repay some of their student debt?

We’ve established that it’s impossible to attend college on only a minimum wage job; the only way to pay for college tuition is to either be wealthy, or to take out a student loan. High tuition rates are what is keeping poverty stricken people in poverty; with no backup plan to pay off their student debt, many impoverished people will skip a college education altogether. In the same way that minimum wage isn’t increasing with college tuition, family income isn’t increasing with it either. In 2009, the average family income was 200% of what it was in 1980; college tuition and fees were 550% of what they were in 1980. If children in poverty cannot attain a scholarship (since they are decreasing the number of scholarships given out) they have no real way of attaining a college degree of any kind without taking out a huge student loan – which they most likely will not be able to pay off, since 50% of college graduates are currently employed in a job that does not require a degree.

Essentially, the only way to get a higher education without looming debt is to be wealthy; this is why many people born into poverty stay in poverty. This system encroaches on the fact that the United States prides themselves on democracy and equal opportunities for everyone. A lower college cost would give everyone a chance to make something of themselves, instead of putting certain people in a hard position to escape. Would lowering the tuition lower the amount of student debt? Currently, student debt is at 1 trillion dollars, the highest it has ever been. The average graduate of the class of 2014 has $33,000 of debt to pay off. This needs to be paid off by people just starting their careers, who have bills, car and credit card payments, and living expenses to pay. This year, 70% of students had to take out loans to pay for college; 25% more than in 1993. Even adjusted to inflation, students now have to take out loans double the size as people had to 20 years ago.

It is possible to pay off the debt eventually, but with the average salary for entry level jobs at around $40,000 a year, and with bills, taxes, and living expenses to pay, it would still take quite a long time to pay off that lingering student debt. It is a huge burden on people new to their career. And it’s becoming harder and harder to pay off the debt; from 2005 to 2012, the average student loan has increased by 35%, while the average salary has dropped by 2.2%. With unemployment rate for college graduates at about 8.5% in the first half of 2014, and 50% of those working having jobs that don’t require a college degree, many former students are even more disadvantaged in paying their debt. Not surprisingly, America is among the top spenders for education in the world. But does all this money being spent really equal a better education?

In many European countries such as Italy, France, and Sweden, college tuition per year is around 2 thousand dollars a year, and tuition in Germany and Norway is free, which is a significant difference. The condition of these colleges could not be described as any worse than in America; in fact, Sweden, France, and Germany are in the top 5 highest ranked countries for higher education, and both of them are below the 5th percentile for college affordability. High college tuitions obviously are not needed to improve the quality of education, since countries like Sweden, France, Germany, are under 600 dollars for yearly tuition, and are all on the top 5 ranked countries for college. With these low tuition fees, these countries have less student loan debt. America’s student loan debt is increasing every year, and lower tuition would decrease the amount of this debt.

Many Europeans are stunned to think that a country would let you start your adult life tens of thousands of dollars in debt. And it makes sense; why would we need to take out thousands in student loans, when other countries have outstanding education systems paired with annual tuitions under 5 thousand dollars a year? It may be easy to dismiss this problem as irrelevant, but it’s anything but. The expensive college tuition not only makes life more difficult for adults sunk in student debt, but it also deters many would be graduates from finishing college. Currently, 42% of people who enroll in a bachelor’s degree program don’t graduate, and 72% of associate’s don’t graduate.

The high tuition makes enrolling for classes a bigger risk than it needs to be, because if someone wants to drop out or change their major, they will still have debt to pay off for unused credits. Not only does the higher tuition make it harder for an average person to attain a scholarship and pay off their debt, but it continues to raise the overall student debt in America, and helps keep the impoverished in poverty. By lowering the overall college tuition fee, we can put an end to frivolous overspending by colleges and help give everyone an equal chance at higher education.

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