03/13/2014 06:36 pm ET Updated May 13, 2014

The Story of Middle Class Students Preparing for College

As seniors prepare to apply to college there are a few factors that must be considered when choosing which colleges to apply for and which colleges to eventually attend. These factors include majors, location, size, campus life and of course, price.

However, as the price of college rises each year, many students have been forced to cross their top schools off their list. Top tier private colleges can cost upwards of $60k a year and without superb grades, scholarships may be unavailable. For Ivy League schools, which offer aid based only on need and not merit, even students with superb grades might not be able to attend if they cannot pay.

In my own personal experience as a middle class student in the top 1 percent of my class, I've had to reconsider my college choices due to finances. My top schools were Yale, Harvard and Columbia, but according to the Ivy League need-based financial aid system, my parents make too much money for me to receive any substantial aid. Though my family is not struggling, we do not have a quarter of a million dollars to pay four years worth of tuition. There is always the option of student loans, but such loans can leave families with crushing debt as high as $200K-$300K. No one wants to graduate college $300,000 behind, no matter what field or profession, and in today's shaky job market there is no guarantee that there will be jobs available.

Additionally, if I want to go to graduate school on student loans there's another $100K-$200K of debt. It is simply financially irresponsible to go to a top tier private college without financial aid or scholarships, but I believe that qualified students shouldn't be denied their top schools because they can't afford it. There should not be a price tag on education that alienates some people due to their middle class status.

In today's job market, a minimum of a bachelor's degree is needed to secure a viable career, but at the same time, the price of college increases constantly. You could say that students looking to go to college or into the work place are "getting screwed at both ends," but it doesn't have to be this way. The government has cut more funding for higher education while the budget for other programs goes untouched. Government reform and the increased willingness from large private colleges with billion dollar endowments to reach into their pockets could make an high level education available to every qualified student.

Originally Published in The Main Street Journal, The Charles H. Flowers High School Newspaper:

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