It’s becoming more difficult for young Americans to obtain a college education. Today’s media shows that college costs are rising in America, more students are dropping out of high school due to rising tuition costs, and a substantial portion of the population can’t afford higher education at all.
According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 while the median family income rose 147 percent. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families.
Even before our current economic crisis, California’s spending was slashed during the early 1990’s recession. “Higher education took the worst beating of any major spending category, precipitating average tuition increases of 36.6 percent between 1989-90 and 1992-93 at four-year public colleges and universities,” according to the article “A Different Kind of Recession” by Steven Gold.
Annual tuition, fees and room and board for in-state students at four-year public colleges and universities nationwide grew 5.7 percent for the current academic year to $14,333, according to the College Board’s annual college pricing survey. For four-year private schools, the price of attending rose 5.6 percent to $34,132. Financial aid reduced schooling expenses for eligible students.
Some minor reasons for the raise in tuition fees were to balance reductions in the subsidies governments (in other words, taxpayers) provide for higher education, according to University officials. Also, school officials say that increased tuition is needed to generate more money to hand back to students as financial aid, in part to make up for the federal government’s reductions in programs like the Pell grant.
While the above may be true concerning rising costs, subsidies earmarked for education have been re-directed as stopgaps and funding for other programs. While our legislature attempts to balance the budget it takes more and more from education, and puts the financial responsibilities back squarely in the hands of families.
Many other state campuses face similar situations, according to the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. “Since state budgets and tax revenues are down, universities will be pressed to increase tuition,” said Peter McPherson, the association’s president. “Faced with rising costs, decreased funding and laws in many states designed to keep public universities from hiking up tuition, many state school systems are making up for budget shortfalls by tacking on fees for everything from “technology” to “energy.”
“At nearly 40 percent, the United States is second only to Canada in the percentage of adults 35 to 64 with an associate’s degree or higher,” The Washington Post reported. “But the United States is 10th in the world in the percentage of adults 25 to 34 who have such degrees.” This reveals that young Americans are falling behind in education globally. Other nations are at the forefront of education.
In this economic crisis, colleges need to tighten their budgets and not take the effortless way out by raising tuition. Regardless of how problematic the budget problems, tuition increases should be supplemented with increases in financial assistance for students with need.
We now live in a knowledge-based global economy. Without college education and training beyond high school, the outlook is that young Americans will not find employment that supports a middle-class lifestyle.
Celeste Martinez is a senior journalism major and a contributing writer for the Daily Forty-Niner.