By Sidney Burngasser
The glow of the computer screen illuminates the forlorn expression of a college student struggling financially. The student browses page after page of financial-aid applications, jotting down interest rates and calculating the expense of secondary education.
Finally, the student selects a loan that will accommodate his or her $2,300 per-semester deficit. The price this typical U.S. college student will pay after eight semesters and 30 years of monthly payments is approximately $248,000.
As the economy continues to decline, the cost of a college degree steadily grows. Although the benefits of secondary education seem obvious, students and parents must decide if a college degree is worth the outstanding cost.
The cost of attending a private university has increased by roughly 26 percent over the last decade. Even worse, the cost of attending a public university has risen 50 percent, according to a Gallup survey requested by Sallie Mae.
Despite this trend, the study found one-fifth of families name college savings as a “top financial goal.”
Do these figures suggest a college degree is important, despite the cost? According to the College Boards’ annual survey, “Education Pays,” the answer is apparent.
The report concludes college graduates make roughly 66 percent more than high school graduates during acareer. Although the survey does not include a specific figure, this is a difference of about $800,000. The report estimates graduates can pay back the cost of tuition by age 33.
Additionally, the College Board suggests graduates not only benefit extrinsically, but intrinsically. They are more likely to vote, volunteer and exercise. Health care providers found educated citizens are more likely to eat healthy foods and avoid dangerous behaviors, like smoking.
“The cost of education is extremely high. However, the gain of knowledge and the experience as a whole makes it completely worth it,” said Courtney Moore, senior music major.
Fortunately for students, scholarships and financial aid can make a college education more affordable.
“Union is well-recognized for offering a high quality academic program at substantially less than the national average for private colleges,” said Rich Grimm, senior vice president for enrollment services. “To help students and families realize their dream of attending Union, we award a significant amount of institutional scholarships and grants, oftentimes on top of support from state, federal and private sources.”
Similarly, the government is making strides toward affordable education under the direction of President Obama’s administration. By redirecting federal loan money to students, raising the value of Pell Grants and tripling investments in college tax credits, education is becoming more affordable.
“Don’t let anybody tell you that somehow your dreams are going to be constrained going forward,” Obama said in a press conference, Sept. 27. “You’re going through a slightly tougher period. I think your generation is going to be fine.”