Don’t let steep costs stop your college dreams

At this point in the year, many of us are receiving college acceptance letters. We face big choices about which schools we will attend–and how we will pay the high prices that come with admission.

Tuition cost is a problem for many and has actually been a rising issue in the past 20 to 25 years. As institutions develop more features to attract all different kinds of students, the prices continue to increase.

College tuition inflation averaged 4.63 percent annually from 2010 to 2020, according to the Education Data Initiative. The organization also reports that, after adjusting for inflation, tuition has gone up a staggering 747.8 percent since 1963.

With high college prices can come high debt that can haunt you for years. As April Klazema writes on Compareer Analytical Insight, a website designed to help consumers compare colleges, “In the wrong set of circumstances, student loan debt can become a burden for a lifetime.” It can be compared to a car payment, as college debt is paid off monthly until the balance is zero.

On average, the yearly cost of college is about $10,000 to 11,000 for an in-state school and above $20,000 for an out-of-state school. For Ivy League schools, the average is about $32,000. Most students take out loans to pay these steep prices. Nationally, the amount of student loan debt is about $1.75 trillion–not a minor problem.

To tackle this issue as far as we can, applying for scholarships and any kind of financial aid is your best bet. Even though there is a small problem with financial aid being distributed properly, it is still a better idea to apply than not. Taking a chance is better than losing an opportunity you could have missed.

Esteban Medina, my counselor at Oak Park and River Forest High School, agreed. He always encourages students to apply for financial aid, even if it may seem out of reach. “Youth sometimes comes with the drawback of just not knowing what great opportunity is in front of you,” he told me.

This means when it comes to financial aid, you should always give it a shot. Don’t be discouraged by the number that comes with a college degree. Also, consider the more affordable options. Trade schools have lower tuition, and so do colleges that are in state. Remember, there are great, attention-worthy colleges with lower prices as well as the ones with higher prices.

Why are college prices so high? The reason is indeed understandable. The more options a school offers to target the exact students they want, the higher the price of the school. College is almost like a business, if you think about it. Institutions pour a lot of money into their facilities, which ends up costing them more as they try and attract students.

As Adam Davidson wrote in a 2015 New York Times article, “Students are not just customers; they are also an integral part of the core product.”

Not only that, some debt might not be the worst thing in the world. An accountant at Trade Link, Polina Gomez, said, “It can be good to have debt at a young age since it can build your credit history.” Establishing a good credit line is important for major purchases you might make in the future.”

Having to pay for college also increases your sense of investment. If things are free, how determined can you be to work for them? You don’t lose anything if you aren’t even paying for it, right? Medina said, “If you walk into college and know that it costs nothing, it is a lot easier to not be as responsible as you should be.”

That said, the cost of college is still way too high. There needs to be a change to the pricing of college, even if it is a minor one. Building a new pricing model for the 21st century can be the perfect start. Let your voice be heard, so that we can begin to make changes to the affordability of college. Though Jessica Dickler from CNBC said, “College dreams are not what they used to be,” we can change it to, “College dreams are now what they should be.” I want those who are fearful of debt and tuition costs to remember there are still ways to work around it and to not let the drive of fear stop you from achieving your dreams.