THE BLOG
06/22/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

COLLEGE COSTS: GIVE US A DECADE OF YOUR LIFE AND WE'LL GIVE YOU A DEGREE


The cost of college has become as unhealthy to the economic well being of young adults as the near total collapse of the financial services system has been to many of our parents. Not only has the price of a degree become a burden to young adults fighting for jobs in a recession but also has turned into a deterrent to higher learning as well. At some point, the federal government is going to have to address the issue of what happens when acquiring a bachelors or masters degree is a weight too many are struggling to carry.

As the dollar has grown weaker and the number of well paying jobs has decreased or disappeared, the price of college has increased and continues to do so unchecked. The national inflation rate between September 2006 and September 2009 was 6.44%. Basically, that means a Big Mac costs you 6.44% more than it did four years ago. However, during the same period between 2006 and 2009, the price of a college degree has sky rocketed making a dinner date at McDonalds just about the only affordable option of eating out. Harvard's tuition in the four-year span grew by 10.7% and New York University increased 13.1%. Of course, those are private institutions and therefore are more or less left to operate on their own. But, public colleges have increased as well. Georgia Tech soared an amazing 20.7% for in-state students and 18% for out of state applicants. At UCLA, the increase was 12.1% for in-state and 14.6% for out of state and in Massachusetts, a Mecca of higher learning, at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the price has gone up over 15% for all students. With the tuition inflation rate doubling and almost tripling the national rate in some cases, it means that a new college student might end up paying north of a quarter-million dollars by 2014 with no job security at the end. That's one expensive keg party.

The real issue wouldn't be the price if it could be paid back with limited hassle. About two thirds of all college students are on financial aid. Loan specialists like Sallie Mae offer both federal student loans, which have a capped interest rate, and private student loans, which can vary according to credit score. If you have a great credit score at eighteen than you're in the clear and if you don't than you better hope your cosigner does. Many of these financial aid loans are scheduled to pay off at around a 6.5% interest rate in only a decades' time, that is if you don't miss any payments. So, by the time you start saving for a child's college tuition, you'll be in the midst of paying of your own. Suggestively, an average student who decides to go to the University of Massachusetts and takes out $30,000 at a very low 4.25% interest rate to do so will have to pay $106.25 per month while at school and over $305 monthly for the ten years after. And that's a very good interest rate. The people who make the world turn like teachers, lawyers, doctors and business graduates can expect two, three or four times the amount of total debt once they graduate.

An average college graduate in 2010 will earn about $46,000... if they find a job. Certainly, it becomes economically beneficial to go to college and more people are doing it now than ever before. But, how is an underpaid teacher with college debt supposed to enthuse a kid from Spanish Harlem to become a doctor with the line, "You'll only be $100,000 in the hole when you graduate." Private institutions notwithstanding, the public colleges need to be regulated so they are more attainable to students of all economic classes without the financial stress lingering for years after.

Let's say it for what it is: the United States' educational system is an abomination when weighing the resources and money we have in this country. It doesn't help that some students have easy interface, high definition distractions while in some neighborhoods kids are using outdated textbooks and teachers are tied to standardized tests and end up having to teach down to the worst student in their class. These are huge problems. The price of college is also one. Public colleges should not have tuition increases significantly larger than the national inflation average especially during a recession.

Look, if our government can find the money to bail out the auto industry, the banking industry, support national healthcare and wage two wars while shelling out billions in foreign aid to people who keep bombing us then it should be able to find a way to cap not only student loans, but college tuition itself and save us a few bucks. Just think if tuition was cut by 5% across the board. It is millions of dollars saved, dollars that could be spent in other ways like, say, on renewable energy or new books for classrooms. Hey, maybe we'd even stop eating so much fast food like McDonalds. A certainty would be that our future would be brighter with a smarter population skilled in economics, medicine and science and it seems a good way to heighten those fields is by lessening the financial burden on young adults of achieving a college degree.

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