Pursuing higher education is usually credited with taking the next step in a career. College is a way for students to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to enter the job market as an attractive applicant. However, the financial implications of a college degree have changed, which has impacted how college students finance their education.
The cost of a college education has surged over the last three decades. The average cost of an undergraduate institution increased from $11,369 yearly in 1986 to $24,623 per year in 2019 after adjusting for inflation. (National Center for Education Statistics, 2019). Katie Mathews, a school counselor at Northside College Prep, has stated that “It’s surreal how tuition has more than doubled since I was in college. Financial aid and scholarships are more important than ever to make up for all of those costs. Seeing firsthand how the cost of college tuition has impacted my students, we have always approached it with caution. We want to make the most knowledgeable financial decision while taking the next step in applying to college.”
Following the upward trend in college tuition prices, student loan debt has skyrocketed as well. Approximately 42.9 million Americans with federal student loan debt owe an average $37,105 for their federal loans. This was an increase from the 2007 average of $22,708. (Education Data Initiative, 2021). “My entire college decision was predicated on that debt factor,” says Gurluv Singh, a current Freshman at Wilbur Wright College and recipient of the Star Scholarship. “Although I was admitted to some good institutions, the out-of-pocket cost even after aid was too much of an undertaking for me. I plan on attending graduate school, so taking out loans for my undergrad doesn’t make a lot of financial sense for me.”
The student loan debt crisis has spiraled out of control, but this does not have to be the case for every student. Most accredited institutions offer merit scholarships and need-based aid in the form of grants to help students handle college tuition costs. Ultimately, the decision is up to the student to make educated financial decisions to ensure a financially secure future in higher education.