College Cost Conundrum


Just another senior at IHS, overwhelmed by the impending cost of college.

The journey of high school is coming to an end for the senior class, and with it comes the future. For many the future is an exciting leap into the unknown of the professional workforce, while for others that leap into the unknown holds nothing but a fearful uncertainty; there are too many questions and what-ifs that cannot be answered just yet. And for some a question that is always lingering in their minds is one of what will happen after they earn their degree, after they find an apartment and a job to tie them over with… what about my college debt? 

According to a New York Times article the cost to attend a private university has tripled since 1974. Making the average cost of college $50,900 per year in the United States ( Public university costs are also skyrocketing; the cost averages around $25,290 for those living in state, and $40,940 for those living out of state. The Business Insider article by Hillary Hoffower reports that one of the reasons for these massive price hikes is because state governments have cut operating support for higher education and allow the colleges to replace the lost money with tuition raises. Compared to the average developed country, Americans spend $30,000 per student per year (as claimed an article by The Atlantic written by Amanda Ripley) — that’s twice as much as America’s European counterparts!

Taking Europe further into the discussion, a third of developed countries offer college for free to their citizens, and another third keep tuition very cheap — less than $2,400 per year. Some examples are Germany, Norway, and Slovenia, just to name a few: they have no tuition for state, also known as public, universities. However other countries like Finland and France have college tuition costs as low as $1,000 or sometimes practically free..

More recently Americans are beginning to demand a change to this ever-growing business scandal: people are demanding affordable prices so they can get a college education and become a productive member of society. This is because one of the largest appeals to a college education is the proven higher salaries for individuals with at least an Associate degree.

We sat down with our two interviewees (Natalie Turner, a history teacher at Ipswich High School, and Meredith Wonson, a senior at Ipswich High School) to get their opinions on the issue. 

In regards to the cost of college, Meredith stated, “I think that students feel kind of cheated by it, because they know they can’t afford not to go but at the same time the rising cost means that it’s almost impossible to get out of the debt that it brings you into no matter what major you go into.” Natalie Turner had similar beliefs, echoing, “I think that it’s somewhat of a burden for many people — I think it actually is a burden — and I think especially if we have this idea that you have to go to college or we’re not also telling students that it’s okay to go to a community college. Maybe if you want to go there for two years, save some money, and then get a really high GPA potentially, and then transfer to a state college… we’re not really telling the kids about that avenue you can take.” 

Whether this country is capable of implementing legislature to lower college costs, thus following suit of other developed countries in the world, Natalie said that America is capable of it, with her suggesting, “I think it’s something that we should look into. I think that state schools should be more affordable… I  do think we need to do something to address the cost of tuition or books and fees, and maybe think of another avenue to lower the cost.” 

Meredith agreed, adding that, “We have one of the strongest economies in the world and if we really wanted to we could.  I just don’t think that many people are willing to, given the fact that America has a very profit-based ideology.” She also says that the first step to achieving this goal is “realizing that just because you struggled doesn’t mean that the younger generation has to.” She also stresses that we need to realize that “we have the money, and we have the ability,” the next step is to act on these ideas. When asked if the older generations would eventually accept this, even though they may believe the younger generations are lazy, she said, “Well I think the important thing to recognize is that the majority of older generations that I’ve spoken to are actually pretty for it.” 

However Natalie does not agree with the belief that the older generations would gradually come to accept this, expressing her belief that, “I would think that they wouldn’t because for a lot of older generations, when they went to college, the tuition was lower and more manageable, whereas right now it’s more of a burden if you can’t pay off your debt… So I think because it doesn’t impact the older generation, they might not see the significance of doing that.”

As to whether the United States government will listen to the people of the future and decide that enough is enough and do away with the ridiculous, high costs of education, only time can tell. But as it stands right now, there are students struggling to live because they cannot afford to buy food, pay rent, and pay their student loan debt on top of that. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible.