Benefits of college lag behind rapidly increasing tuition costs

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In some not-so-shocking news, the College Board recently announced that the cost of tuition is on the rise. Tuition at public and private universities has risen more than double the rate of inflation. On average, tuition increased 6.6 percent to $6185 at public four-year colleges over the last year, while tuition at private colleges went up 6.3 percent to $23,712.

Although many students nationwide, at both public and private institutions, receive some sort of financial aid, there was also word that assistance will become less effective as the cost of college continues to increase. The College Board announced that the Federal Pell Grant, awarded to students in need, was unable to “keep pace with inflation” for the fourth year in a row.

Whether students pay for it themselves or get some form of assistance, the fact that the cost of college has continued (and probably will continue) to increase made me think about whether students are actually getting their money’s worth. Are the benefits of attending college increasing along with the expense?

In my opinion, the cost of college does not match up with the benefits for students. This isn’t just about the amount of money to attend Carnegie Mellon, and it’s not about my own experience in particular. It’s about making the college experience accessible and worthwhile for all young people, which should be the goal of all universities.

Having an undergraduate degree is necessary to even be considered for most jobs that pay a decent salary. Getting some form of higher education beyond high school has become necessary in our society, particularly for underprivileged individuals who may not have many opportunities to succeed within their own communities. However, unless one possesses a special talent, the price tag of college and the difficulty of financing an education discourages everyone from achieving this dream, even if they may be equally as deserving.

How can something so essential be so out of reach for so many people?

Some recent presidential hopefuls, along with former presidential candidate John Kerry, presented the idea of “Service for College.” This initiative would supply students with free college tuition in exchange for two years of public service. In addition, the program would give students an opportunity to learn outside of a traditional classroom setting through service in communities. While the feasibility of this plan has yet to be proven, these leaders should be commended for attempting to make college accessible for all young people.

Sandy Baum, a senior analyst for the College Board, stated in the recent announcement, “The average numbers don’t tell the story for any individual student.” This statement was made in regard
to the fact that each individual institution may or may not experience their own increase in tuition or room and board.

I still feel that anytime there is an announcement anywhere that college tuition is on the rise, especially when it is increasing faster than the consumer price index, then all institutions should take the time to look at themselves and ask whether they are giving back enough.