Define affordable.

Something that really resonated with me this week was the discussion of focusing on students rather than parents in regards to college affordability in the Baum and Ma reading. In the paper the argument is stated as, “Parents can subsidize students to make college more affordable for them. But the focus should be on the student themselves” (6). I completely agree. Whether a student’s parent is contributing to their education, and by how much, is dependent on that individual’s situation. You cannot have a blanket rule regarding every student. Overgeneralizing leads to certain students getting left behind and unable to pay because of miscalculations in financial aid. Baum and Ma argued that parent contributions to their student’s education should be thought of as a subsidy similar to a Pell Grant from the federal government. Affordability depends on what students can expect to earn after getting their degree as well as the amount they can pay in subsidies, from their parents and or the government.

This made me think a lot about my freshman year of college, and figuring out what I needed to do to make college “affordable” for me. My parents got divorced my senior year of high school and I truly believe that if they hadn’t I would be in thousands more dollars of debt. I remember a family friend actually saying to me, “Well one silver lining is you might actually be able to pay for college now”. At the time I was pissed but honestly, and sadly, it has been a significant factor in college affordability for me. The mere fact that someone said that to me, and that people consistently joke that “if only their parents were divorced” they would be able to go to college without taking on crippling debts, is truly twisted.

My question is, if there is so much literature and research around how college is not actually affordable, and most of the American public agrees that the amount students are expected to pay is unreasonable, what is the problem? Pull it together America!

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