College’s Price Tag Keeps Rising, but Is It Worth it?

By Mohammad Hussain

I used to attend Stony Brook University during my freshman year of college. It felt like a standard university. The only new thing to me was living in a dormitory. I enjoyed myself at first, but little did I know that the stress of being alone would overtake that joy. I thought that stress would be the worst of it — that is until I saw the price mounting during the second semester.

I decided to look at the price for the fall term during the summer and when I did, tuition had increased again. The price of education seemed to rise higher and higher. The more I looked at it, the more I knew I did not want to take on a hefty student debt this early in life, so I decided to compare their tuition other colleges. I was lucky enough to be able to go to Queensborough, a CUNY school with a far more affordable tuition, where I would also receive plenty of financial aid. By contrast, when I was accepted into Fordham University, they expected me to pay $40k. I realized then that the escalating price of most college tuition was more evident than ever. I also realized how unfair most colleges’ rising prices are, considering the fact that now the quality of the education I am receiving at Queensborough is just as good, but for substantially less.

My experience with college tuition being unreasonably expensive is not an isolated case. Many students end up staying at their colleges, despite high prices and the necessity for loans. This results in the more common than not huge lump sum of student debt people joke about, even as they mourn.

In the article “College Is More Expensive Than It’s Ever Been, and the 5 Reasons Why Suggest It’s Only Going To Get Worse,” education reporter Hillary Hoffower notes that “figures from the New York Fed, say […] that one-third of college graduates are underemployed and 13% are in a low-paying job.”

The return on college is viewed by the general public to be high, which is understandable, but the problem lies in the fact that colleges expect grand sums of money for what many view as a guarantee for success, when it is not. While I was able to avoid assuming masses of student debt, many others have not. Seeing repeated examples of college graduates struggling because they have to pay installments for their debt shows that college’s rising price tag is not worth it, since the value of a college degree is actually decreasing by becoming less reliable in securing a career that will allow a graduate to pay off that debt.

Though the price of college has been demonstrated to have increased, some reason that this is probably okay because wages also have risen. However, there is fault in this logic. In “The Price Of College Increasing Almost 8 Times Faster Than Wages”, Camilo Maldonado writes that “between the academic years ending in 1989 and 2016, the cost for a four year degree doubled, even after inflation.”

Most know that the price of college has increased, but it is hard to believe that it has increased so much in such a relatively short timespan. The more important information Maldonado points out is that “the cost to attend a university increased nearly eight times faster than wages did.” Wages may have increased, in other words, but they have not increased nearly as much as the price of college. Universities have charged far more and more while wages only incrementally go up. Because of how much the tuition is increasing and how rapidly, it is instead causing the return to lower and lower as the gap between wages and the prices increases.

As a graduate of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, Maldonado’s personal position is just as important. He notes, “35 years ago, it made sense to make that investment to grow and learn about oneself at college, but at the current cost of a university degree, that no longer makes sense.”

If one plans to go on to graduate school, he adds, then they especially need to make sure they are spending a reasonable amount on a college degree.

Maldonado recommends more unconventional paths, like exploring options at community colleges and scholarships as what students should be looking for when it comes to getting a good return on college. Not only did the wages and price of college change, he notes, but so did college’s purpose. College does allow for personal growth, but at the current price point, it becomes a less reasonable exchange.

While it is difficult to say college isn’t worth it, it is more logical to say that it might not be as worth it once was, relative to the times. Back in the day, the wages we could earn with a college degree supported the idea that it was worth it to attend a residential college, but with the rise of tuition prices, the cost of universities have far surpassed that of wages. College may be worth it in that it will raise your job prospects, but there is no longer any guarantee of success if one gets a degree. Regardless of the value of a degree, what is clear is that there are options to help with the growing price of tuition, be it scholarships, community colleges or CUNY schools’ financial aid.

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