Carolyn Gilbert

Tuition v.s. Inflation

Student calls for changes to College tuition, as it continues to rise unabated.

December 14, 2021

Tuition Troubles

College tuition is a killer, and that’s no secret. Billions and billions of dollars head into colleges for tuition every year. Rising against inflation rates, racing up into high amounts, college tuition has dug the knife in deep as it grips America more than ever. A university knows its game and how to play it. The game is long and unfair, the fortunate being those who make it through unscathed and without debt piled six figures high. So what can be done about this issue? How can people escape the mammoth of debt?

Tuition must stop rising at such colossal rates; the rising cost creates less of an opportunity for people to seek and receive adequate secondary education. To start it all off, college tuition rates rise so much faster than the general inflation rate does. College costs more and more as each year goes by, leaving middle-class Americans struggling to meet the cut unless they are the next LeBron James.

The average cost of attending a four-year university in the U.S. has risen by at least 497% between the years 1986 and 2018. Also, two-year schools have seen their tuition jump up 320%.

The fact that tuition rates rise at about twice the general inflation rate and are allowed to get away with it is phenomenal. Tuition still tends to increase by about 8% per year, meaning college tuition costs double about every nine years. This of course leaves their recent graduates in a hot seat when it comes to paying off all of that debt to the colleges. High schoolers are left with options of course, but these options are often not sufficient in getting college paid for.

Also, as a consequence of the rising tuition, low-income individuals are marginalized, limiting their opportunities for higher-paying jobs. In 2019, median weekly earnings with a doctorate degree were about $1,883 and a person with a bachelor’s received about $1248. This is all while people with only a high school diploma have median earnings of $746 and people who don’t have high school diplomas earn $592 in median earnings. The meaning of the degree has gone way up, so isn’t that an adequate call for tuition to come down?

A student taking notes on tuition costs from schools that interest her. (Carolyn Gilbert)

On a similar note, healthcare and housing have become way more expensive between the years 1989 and 2018, leaving even middle-class families struggling to get their kids into college. If those middle-class families are having to sell an arm and a leg to get their kids into college, imagine what atrocity low-income families are facing.

Lastly, a degree has become a staple in our society nowadays, people having to pay the sum for a glimpse of light in the future. The necessity of college for “good jobs” over the past three decades has caused people to bear the sometimes six-figure debt in hope of a higher paying job due to that piece of paper.

In the 1970s, 70% of the good jobs, or jobs that lead to a middle-class life, went to people who had not much more than a high school degree, and yet, ever since then the roles have been reversed. Now 70% of “good jobs” go-to people with degrees from college, allowing colleges to charge whatever they want to give people that chance of a better job.

On the side of those defending rising college tuition, people may say the rising cost of the colleges keeps the institutions afloat, for the university has to pay for all of the equipment, rooming, and salaries of their workers.

This may be true, for the things that are changing such as the costs of creating new engaging things for students to do on campus, which can cause a hike in tuition anywhere between $30,000 and $50,000, and raising the pay of officials like chancellors and presidents.

However, the costs of these things are created in competition with other colleges, and it’s all about who has the best whatever. Also, competition for jobs is creating this hike due to the number of opportunities that are granted with a diploma. Therefore, there should be a cap on what colleges can charge to pay for these things, for if the cost of these things continues to rise as they are, people will go bankrupt trying to get into college or just forgo it as is.

The thousands of dollars people spend every year is detrimental, especially to people and their children who already struggle to pay the bills. This is a huge issue, but there are many ways to calm this storm.

The most logical of those could be to push for a bill to cap the amount colleges can charge for tuition as well as adjusting the rising prices closer to the inflation rate. This push will allow people to pay more reasonable prices for college and for income to closer match tuition, allowing more people to attain their degrees.

In the college system set up that we have, it’s either give up the thousands to swim in this world or don’t pay, sink and settle for a lower income job.

There is an obvious flaw in this system, for the opportunities in this world are limited by a single sheet of paper. The problem is still ongoing and the tuition rates will continue to soar up for those in the next generation if we don’t solve this issue now.

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