Another Year Older, and Deeper In Debt: The Cost of Education

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You should only have as much education as you can afford. At least, that’s according to presidential candidate, Mitt Romnitron. What’s the problem with that? Well, nothing really, if you’re rich and can afford your entire stay at a university.

However, for the remaining 66 percent of students receiving some form of financial aid, that statement is a bit disconcerting. Should students not go to school because they are part of the “lesser,” poorer class? If you said, “yes,” then you probably would fit in just fine as a member of Congress.

What has happened to our educational system?

While some cry that its quality has become increasingly poorer, I don’t think that’s exactly accurate. Our education system has quite a few flaws, but not many “new” ones.

Perhaps, what the quality-checkers are suggesting is that the education received per dollar seems like much less. And, to be honest, it is.

The average cost of college has skyrocketed astronomically. In fact, tuition and fees in the UC system have almost tripled since 2000. Are people making that much more money in the last decade that they can afford to cover the rising cost of tuition?

Not really, no. So where is that extra money coming from?

Financial aid, typically, is the lifeline for students who can’t afford the entirety of tuition and fees. An average student will receive $7,110 in grants or scholarships.

For some, that can be just the amount they need. For others, that just covers some of the expenses. The rest come in loans.
Almost 50% more Stafford loans are taken out than Pell Grants are awarded (and at twice the average amount). Money now for money later, plus interest. That’s how college works now. The real problem, though, is that the loan system is critically flawed.
It operates under the assumption that people can realistically pay their loans back within a few years after college.

According to census data, however, the last time a baccalaureate holder’s salary was equal to the amount of loan they received was 1991.

And, even then, they would have had to pay 100% of their salary to pay off their loan. What’s even worse is that they are given to students under the guise of “financial aid.”

Let’s call it what it is: a glorified prison sentence. It chains students to 20-30+ year financial commitments before the neurons in their brain are even done wiring themselves. While the student loan system has had some positive changes in the last few years, including what was in Obama’s 2010 health care bill, there’s still a long way to go.

Justin Huft is a fourth-year psychology and social ecology double major. He can be reached at jhuft@uci.edu.

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