As College Costs Go Up, the Debate over Financial Aid Heats Up

by David Morel, age 17

    As the school year draws to a close, and many seniors prepare for college, parents and students alike have one burning question: “how in the world am I going to pay for this?”
    The cost of a college degree continues to escalate. Students and their families now bear the majority of the cost of college. Tuition, books, travel expenses, and other miscellaneous expenditures add up to a bill that many cannot afford. Right now, the average college graduate leaves school with $20,000 of debt. Many people wonder how the cost of a college degree has gotten so high.
    Throughout the 20th century, more and more people realized that a college education was important for future success. State governments began to offer financial help for students wishing to attend college. But, as the years went on state began reducing funding for student aid. By the start of the 21st century the burden had largely shifted to the federal government.
    In recent years, billions of dollars have been pumped into financial aid programs. These programs help many students pay for college, but do little to stop tuition from going up. In fact, some experts insist that when the federal government makes more financial aid available, it actually fuels rising college costs.
    In the current tax system families earning over $100 thousand a year benefit from tuition tax credits. These tax credits have increased in recent years. Low income students can receive aid from Pell grants. This means that the major burden of college cost tends to fall on the middle class.
    According to Terry Hartle, the Senior Vice President at the American Council on Higher Education, college education is seen today as more of “a private good… something that individuals ought to pay for by themselves.”
So, while some argue that those who directly benefit from it should pay for it, others think that education is so important, it should be a right for everyone. And there is a general agreement that colleges should try and keep tuition costs down.
    Tuition at four-year public colleges went upon average more than eight percent this year, and there is no reason to believe this trend will end soon. Individual states have not been able to keep up with the rising tuition costs. Today’s young people are just as interested in attending college as previous generations were. Most college students generally agree that they should contribute to their education, but most also think they need more assistance to make it work financially.

[Sources: Wisconsin State Journal; The New York Times]