How and why College Education Is Becoming Unaffordable

Nowadays, acquiring a college diploma is almost compulsory if you want to find a well-paying job. Nevertheless, with the uncontrollable increase of college prices, we begin to ponder whether it’s worth going into debt for a diploma that is supposed to promise us a bright future with stupendous prospects in the job market. Undoubtedly, education is a very significant stage in our lives. Every family wants their children to attend an institution of higher learning. However, with college costs being raised over 538 percent since 1980 in the U.S. over the past 28 years. It almost seems impossible for even middleclass families to cover such immense expenses (Wellisz and Tanzi). In fact, it could exacerbate the financial stability of those students and their parents. College education has become inflated, and the reason it has become a is because the cost for accommodation has risen greatly, government aid for universities is declining, and colleges are constantly employing more nonacademic staff members than needed.

The first reason the total cost for university is rising is because accommodation is becoming more expensive. College housing has become sophisticated and more integrated over the years as compared to the time our parents attended university. Today, college dormitories have access to wireless internet, pool rooms, shops, restaurants, and expensive televisions and other electronic systems offered with the rooms — it is almost as if students are residing in affluent apartment buildings and neighborhoods. Well, if we take it into consideration, they really are. American Campus Communities is one of the major companies that builds and supervises most college campuses in the U.S. The company has developed campuses for West Virginia University, University of Houston and San Diego State University. Overall, the company made a profit of $76 million from constructing these campuses. The company is also known for building off-campus accommodations, such as, for the University of California, Irvine — the company has built off-campus facilities that have fitness centers and almost all rooms have individual washrooms. Accommodation costs are rising as exuberantly as tuition. At most universities, accommodation costs exceed over $8,000 (on-campus). The price has risen by eleven percent since 2007. The increase of accommodation prices has caused many students to forge for cheap, off-campus apartments or live with their relatives/family. As for private universities, dormitory costs hike over $10,000. For instance, Sarah Lawrence College, which is a relatively small liberal arts college located in the outskirts of northern New York, charges students $13,000 per year (the most expensive university in the U.S.). Also, Georgetown University has raised its dormitory cost by ten percent in 2007, reaching a total sum of $12,750 per year. Finally, Pomona College (in California), which is the third most expensive university for room and board charges its students $12,220. Most critics assert that universities raise dorm costs to update campus security and recondition some of the old residence halls on college grounds. The vice president of South Methodist University, Dr. Lori White claims that the revenue generated from accommodation is used to construct university halls. Tuition earnings aren’t used at all (Randall, 2010).

Secondly, the state government aid for many public institutions is being reduced. When Dr. Fichtenbaum gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal, he speculated that the reason college tuition shifted is because the state government aid for universities began declining. According to him, in 1987, colleges were provided with a total of $8,497 each year; however, in 2012 the financial appropriations were reduced to $5,906 (Belkin, 2013). Statistics show that state aid for public universities plummeted by twenty-six percent for each full-time student in the past twenty years. Therefore, this caused many public universities to shift to privatization. State legislators say that the reason public funding was cut for most universities, is to help those schools become more competent in managing themselves. During the 1970s through the 1980s, universities like SUNY Stony Brooks and the University of California, Davis were in a mildly dilapidated condition; then, when the state limited funding for those universities, they were forced to raise their tuition. Today, numerous public colleges rely on tuition and student loans to keep themselves in business (Luzer, 2012). Since 1982–2012, the tuition cost for public universities has risen from $7,000 to $17,000. As for private universities, it has grown from $16,000 to $35,000 in the same years (“Tuition”). Succinctly, the recession was very impactful on the economy and the U.S. government. Due to this, the state governments had no choice but to reduce their aid for many public universities across the nation. As a result, this caused many universities to turn to privatization to cover their expenses (Lewin, 2011).

The main cause university tuition is increasing irrepressibly is because colleges constantly hire more nonacademic staff members. The reports by the New England Center of Investigative Reporting and the American Institutes for Research show that the number of nonacademic staff members had grown faster than the entrance per student and faculty member in the last twenty-five years. After the recession, colleges began raising their tuition and other costs to cover salaries for their administrative staff. From 1987–2011, universities (across the U.S.) employed 517,636 administrators and other nonacademic workers. In private universities, the amount of administrators has doubled as well (Kingkade, 2014). Many pundits believe that universities raise their tuition because of large groups of faculty members. Measurements show that salaries for faculty staff have actually decreased. Dr. Fichtenbaum, a part-time lecturer at Wright State University and the president of the American Association of University Professors asserts that the cost for tuition is surging because of the large employability of administrative staff, and he also points out that another major issue is university presidents being overpaid. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Fichtenbaum expressed that university presidents are paid “as though they were CEOs running a business — and not a very successful one” (Belkin, 2013).

Statistics tell us that the cost of college tuition is rising faster than the rate of inflation. In general, the entire cost of college is rising uncontrollably each year because housing is becoming more expensive, universities are losing governmental appropriations, and there are too many nonacademic workers being employed. College is becoming a substantial financial burden for several students and their families. Even if you attend a local, state college you might still graduate with some amount of financial debt. Also, your college major doesn’t always guarantee you bright prospects in the job market. Due to our declining economy causing the unemployment rate to rise, finding a job became a challenge. Unless, you graduate with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) degree you’ll have a greater chance of obtaining a well-paying job, but then again, that isn’t always guaranteed. Still, it takes a lot of time for many students to repay their debt. For some of them, it takes them several years to repay their loans, especially, if they had attended a private institution. Student loans hold back many college graduates from investing in themselves — for example, retirement, and some are even unable to afford housing mortgages. If the inflation continues to rise, higher education will soon lose its value because students will start entering the workforce as soon as possible (after high school) or seek for other educational alternatives like vocational school or community college. Our youth is arriving at the realization that college isn’t always worth the cost.

Sources:

Belkin, Douglas. “How to Get College Tuition Under Control.” WSJ. The Wall Street Journal, 8 Oct. 2013. Web. 01 Oct. 2015.

Kingkade, Tyler. “New Analysis Shows Problematic Boom In Higher Ed Administrators.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com. 2 Apr. 2014.Web. 1 Oct. 2015.

Lewin, Tamar. “Public Universities Relying More on Tuition Than State Money.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Jan. 2011. Web. 04 Oct. 2015.

Luzer, Daniel. “Can We Make College Cheaper?” The Washington Monthly. N.p., 13 Apr. 2012. Web. 04 Oct. 2015.

Randall, David. “The Most Expensive College Dorms.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 8 Sep. 2010. Web. 04 Oct. 2015.

“Tuition Costs of Colleges and Universities.” National Center for Education Statistics. Institute of Education Sciences. Web. 1 Oct. 2015.

Wellisz, Christopher, and Alex Tanzi. “College Costs Surge 500% in U.S. Since 1985: Chart of the Day.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 26 Aug. 2013. Web. 01 Oct. 2015.

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