Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Campus 101: Tuition

November 17- We have all heard some of the commonplace accounts of students leaving school with upwards of $60,000 in debt accrued over just the initial four years of college, but what is the cause of this debt amongst college students? As a college student myself, I feel the fear and anxiety every time a semester begins and my mind starts to reel with the typical questions that are common for the beginning of a semester: how much will my bill be this semester and what is it ultimately going to cost me?

It was these thoughts that started to plague me during my second semester of my first year in Amherst, Massachusetts. I realized then that school was going to cost me more than just money; it was going to cost me my sanity. It was the endless tossing and turning as the deadline for a bill neared that forced me to realize that I had gone about obtaining my undergraduate degree the wrong way. I suddenly became less concerned about where I went to college and more concerned about the cost. After all, I reasoned, it does not matter where I get my undergraduate degree and I began to understand that even with my nose stuck in a book, it all came back to how much experience I had. So I transferred to a less expensive, but no less accredited, institution and ended up saving myself at least $11,000 a year. I think I would love to have that extra $11,000 lining my wallet rather than have to pay it back with interest to a company who loaned me the money, wouldn’t you?

Although I have “saved” quite a bit, I was still interested in figuring out how the cost of tuition has risen far above the rate of inflation, causing fees at every institution to increase along with my anxiety level as the envelope with the bill arrived. What I found was both startling and yet, somehow, obvious. As the number of applicants to colleges increases, so too does the cost of attending. This rise in cost and interest creates a sense of being part of the "elite" crowd who were accepted. I do not know what is so “elite” about having to shovel out thousands of dollars that I do not have, but I digress.

Is this the only reason? Of course not, there are plenty of other reasons. However, it is a major contributing factor to the rising cost of tuition amongst colleges across the country. Consider for a second if there was no need to get a degree, then would so many individuals strive to get one? No they wouldn’t because they would not technically need one, but we do need one now because most jobs require a degree in order to apply for a position. Unfortunately, the number of applications to institutions will probably keep increasing, so expect the cost to increase along with it. Does that mean that we, as students, should have to pay the hefty price tag? Again, no, so long as you are economically smart and come to the realization that the name of a school will not help or hurt your chances because it is the degree that counts… unless you would rather be paying off thousands of dollars of debt throughout your life simply for the name of a school.

So in the end, I found that college tuition costs far more than money because it impacts your ability to concentrate on your education as you become anxious about having to pay the bill. However, when you begin to consider all of your higher education options and how much you can actually afford without overexerting yourself, then your debt should be at a minimum, far below $60,000.

If you want to know more about the rising cost of tuition and the reasons behind it, then look for next week’s article featuring a one-on-one interview with MSN Financial expert, Liz Weston. She will take us on a journey through the marshes known as tuition and into a realm where we can understand our own finances thoroughly.

By: Samantha Sarantakis

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