By KATIE HIPPLE
Tuition. The topic may sound threatening, but it doesn’t have to be that way. For students, tuition rates are a deciding factor in choosing a school, but it has just as great of an effect on their lives after attending college. When thinking about tuition, debt and student loans are typically the first two words that come to mind, and consequently, we tend to shy away from the sensitive topic. Degrees are arguably crucial to succeed in the workforce, so why does the cost of achieving one continue to increase?
Tuition keeps rising year after year. In 2013-14, the cost of tuition for a full-time undergrad student at Mary Washington was $9,660. This academic year it has increased to a value of $12,128. This is something that needs to be addressed on a country-wide scale.
Compare the cost of living with the cost of a decent education and teacher salaries. There must be a happy middle that can be met because the system in place now is clearly not working. Simply put, it sends students into an exorbitant amount of debt. According to the CNBC article, “Here’s how much more expensive it is for you to go to college than it was for your parents’, nationwide tuition has faced a 213% increase over the past 30 years.
Students go to college to get a degree that is needed to obtain a high paying job. Then, when it is time to think about settling down and starting a life after school, there is no money left over or saved. “In 2012, 71% of graduates from four-year colleges carried debt, with students owing an average of $25,550 and those with degrees from private colleges owed an average of $32,300,” according to CNBC.
Financial aid cannot keep up with the rising costs. US News and World Report state, “..3.9 million undergrads with federal student loan debt dropped out during the fiscal years 2015 and 2016.”
I received a $1,000 scholarship from UMW as an incoming transfer student and even though every bit helps, it does not touch room and board. The cheapest double rooms on campus are $3,322 per semester, and quad rooms costs close behind, amounting to $2,955 per semester.
“Maybe make scholarships easier to get because they are really hard to get,”’ said freshman Lexie Pound, who is all-too-familiar with the costs of education.
Without a bachelor’s degree, and certainly without an associate’s degree, it is nearly impossible to achieve a high-paying job. Nowadays, even entry-level jobs are having employees sign continuing education contracts. Even with a bachelor’s, they require more education, and most often the cost of continuing comes from employee’s pockets… Students who cannot meet the yearly requirements are forced to drop out early to get a job to save and go back. This method is helpful in the short term but can set students years behind in their school career.
According to ConsumerFinance.gov, the average time to pay off a student loan is 10 years and graduate loans range from 10-30 years to pay back. Meaning, students could potentially be 50 years old before they are able to pay back their debt in full. That is ridiculous. Payments are longer than the time spent in the classroom.
“I am paying school as I go and I went to a community college, so clearly I have done enough to keep the costs as low as I can, but clearly it is not enough. So no it is not sufficient and there has to be a better way,” said Maria Pound, a junior biology major.
Students attend school for 4-8 years and get their intended degree. My proposal is that once the students receive jobs after graduating, a third party will determine cost of living and payment schedule for schooling dependent upon students salaries. Students will then pay the calculated amount in increments, for the same amount of time they attended school. This ensures debt is not hanging over students’ heads for decades after graduating. It will also hopefully preserve enough money to live comfortably in the meantime.
This may not be a simple solution, but it can be the beginning of affordable tuition. Start the conversation and continue to demand realistic rates on the road to achieving a degree, and maybe one day there will be some change.