Sixteen thousand dollars. This is what one year of college education cost in 1986, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Today, it’s about $40,000 per year for private universities. This accounts for only 68 percent of university expenditures. If the increase continues as it did from 1986 to 2011, annual tuition would be $100,000 when many of us have kids of our own in college.
I don’t intend to complain about our university specifically or to say the price is unfair. I want to express the need for financial reform so a change can be made by the time we have kids. Imagine how much you will need to spend per year for their college educations. Two kids could end up costing you $1 million.
Many say the college experience is an investment. However, today it’s no longer just an investment, but a necessity. Yes, there have been college dropouts and degree-less celebrities who made it big, like Mark Zuckerberg and Brian Williams. Unfortunately, these examples are few and far between, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that a college degree is necessary for a lucrative career in most fields.
The high price tag for a degree creates socioeconomic barriers and deters many things that make education important. Imagine having to choose between following your dream as a fine arts major or a degree that will help you pay off student loans and debts.
It no longer becomes a matter of what you want to do, but what you have to do to afford an education. You have to get a paying job when you could apply for internships. More financial problems mean less risk-taking and exploration, an avenue from which a vast amount of good has come. You get tied to a system that offers you an education, which could limit your freedom later in life.
So, do we make undergraduate education free and rely on generous endowments? Do we increase financial aid in a freshman class that grows each year? Should we stop updating facilities, spending money on new buildings, and hosting guest lecturers and events like the Ludacris concert?
Honestly, I don’t know, but this conversation needs to be projected through a large megaphone.
While there are obviously many pressing issues in this country, the direction that education is heading will create more restrictions than possibilities for students of American colleges and universities.
James Hennessy is a freshman majoring in math.