Throughout a typical child’s academic career, college and university options are praised as being the pathway to a successful and professional future by teachers, school administrators, guidance counselors, and the average parent. However, it is becoming less clear whether or not a college education is worth the cost. The general idea is that having a degree in a particular field gives someone a better chance of securing a job, and potentially receiving a greater base pay. Few people stop to analyze the costs of attending a typical university in detail before they apply to one, realizing too late that the financial burden of higher education is one that many people cannot handle. Eventually, this crisis poses the question of whether or not a college education really is the best choice for students to pursue success.
The current state of the economy has left a great number of people in financial distress, and as a result, more individuals are applying for scholarships, government grants, loans, and other funding options for school. Funds run out quickly as competition and the sheer number of applicants rises. Though many schools offer need-based assistance through their financial aid offices, few applicants actually receive enough money to cover their tuition and book charges effectively. They are then forced to take out hefty loans from the government, a bank, or another private lender, which are only approved with a competent cosigner and usually have high interest rates and monthly payments, especially if the applicant chooses to defer it until after graduation. Finding a cosigner for these loans is incredibly difficult for many individuals as well due to the decline in the national economy—not being able to find a job or being laid off makes it challenging to meet basic needs, let alone make payments on previous purchases, causing credit scores to drop significantly and not qualify for a majority of lenders.
If a student does successfully accrue substantial funding to attend school and is subjected to an unexpected financial emergency later on, he or she is forced to repeat the grueling and nerve-wracking process of finding a loan or grant again. This time, however, he or she is fighting for the ability to finish the academic year. What’s the worse news? Late payments add an extra fifteen percent (or more, at some universities) to the original bill, making it even more challenging for the student to make ends meet. The emergency funds provided by most universities are under one thousand dollars, which in several cases is not nearly enough to cover leftover tuition costs. Tragically, many individuals are forced to drop out of school and search for low-wage jobs to pay off their debt, and all of the money they spent on an attempted education is gone forever, which can very easily be the cause of financial downfall. Even if a student is lucky enough to maintain the necessary amounts of money, which in many cases may well exceed a staggering total of $100,000, he or she is likely going to be responsible for paying off his or her student loans after graduation, a task that could take twenty years or more depending on the case, not to mention the compiling interest, which turns the original sum into a much bigger chunk of change.
Another important financial concern that should be considered when deciding whether or not to pursue post-secondary education is that of the constant rise in tuition costs. As student loans and financial aid are becoming increasingly scarce, tuition and fees are rapidly escalating. Some rumors (or facts?) have begun circulating within the academic community that tuition increases fifteen times more quickly than inflation. This is something students and parents alike should be concerned about when applying and enrolling in a university. It is also necessary to analyze the situation in a risk-versus-benefit manner. Attending college is generally smiled upon in American culture, and it seems that nearly every student enrolled at a university was somehow influenced by another individual, be it a teacher or a family member, to attend in the first place. Unfortunately, many members of society look down upon trade schools, technical, and community colleges, and in many ways this pressures students to choose costlier universities and state colleges. Though they could earn a degree at a community college as well, it is not portrayed as glamorously as a university, and they may feel pressured into the financial woes associated with a better connotation.
When it really comes down to it, students and parents alike are forced to make difficult financial decisions regarding education. The cap, gown, and piece of paper received at graduation are becoming more and more expensive every year, with fewer financial resources remaining available to a growing mass of desperate students. In the near future, if not now, it is going to become much harder to decide whether the risk of attending a university is actually worth the ideal payoff. For this reason, students and their parents or guardians should carefully investigate all of their options before definitively deciding on the future—even though it seems like the only way to be successful is to go to college, or in other words, to take a gamble on financial stability that makes Vegas look like child’s play.