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It’s no secret that college tuition has been skyrocketing – up 450% in less than three decades – but getting to the why takes a bit of work because no one culprit is at fault.
The good news is that at least high-school students can change many of the mistakes their predecessors made.
Reasons the Cost of College Has Gone Up
This can be divided into two categories: government/institutional and personal.
Government and Institutional Causes for High Tuition:
· State support for colleges has eroded. Since 2008, 43 states have cut the amount of money they provide to colleges. Consider this fact alone – Since 1991, Berkeley has seen its share of California-supported operating expenses shrink from 47% to 11%. Guess who’s making up the difference? Students.
· Colleges make student loans a standard part of financial aid packages. Since there isn’t enough grant money to go around anymore (In 1984, Pell Grants paid 52% of college costs; today they pay 34%, and much less if you go to a 4-year college), colleges routinely offer student loans. Not only do loans keep tuition high since the colleges get paid, but it adds to your total cost because your cost of college now includes interest payments. Student loans may be offered as “need-based aid,” but they are not “gift aid.”
Personal Reasons Students Overpay for College:
· Take too long to graduate. Students who graduate in 4 years pay far less than those who graduate in six.
· Transferring colleges. Transfer students take longer to graduate, if they graduate at all. College transfer students, particularly those who change schools three or more times, have a much higher dropout rate than those who attend one school only.
· They’re not academically competitive or above average. If you attend a college where you are not in the top 25% academically, you won’t receive any merit-based aid (like additional grants or scholarships). You need to know how you stack up against your fellow freshmen.
Of course, these are just some of the reasons college costs so much. What if you don’t get a job right after graduation? Pretty soon you’re paying interest on your unsubsidized Stafford Loans and your “cost of college” has gone up again.
You can’t do much about affecting federal, state, and college policy, but you can lower your out-of-pocket expenses by preparing for college properly. This means researching colleges where you’re a good academic fit. Compare your college selections until you find one where you believe your abilities will be rewarded, helping you can graduate on time.
Get good SAT or ACT scores and good grades in Advanced Placement classes so that you avoid remedial classes, don’t transfer colleges to stay competitive, and land a career after graduation.
The reason students are paying too much for college boils down to the fact that they didn’t find the right college for them. If you can find a college that rewards your commitment to education, you just might find you can afford it after all.
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