Going Into Debt? Think Twice About College


Vansh Negi, Contributor

In recent years, the cost of U.S. colleges has skyrocketed. As a result, more and more low-income students need help to afford higher education. Most universities in the U.S. are becoming more corporatized and offer less despite soaring costs. After the Great Recession of 2008, more and more people began questioning the value of a college education. This is because the cost of tuition had been rising at a rate that far outpaced inflation, and many graduates were finding it difficult to find jobs in their fields.

According to the article Why is College in America so Expensive? by Amanda Ripley, Americans spend about $30,000 a year per student– nearly twice as much as the average developed country, which makes the U.S. ranked NO.1 in the world for spending on student welfare, supported by the new international data. She also stated that the average American taxpayer and family spent about $3,370 on these services, more than three times the average for the developed world.

Universities, one of the best tools for social mobility, turn themselves into the carnival cruise, which caters to the rich. Many universities today offer preferential treatment to students who come from wealthy families. As a result, lower-income students find it harder than ever to get into university and receive a quality education. This creates a system where only the rich can afford to attend university, which ultimately benefits no one but themselves.

The ball pit at MIT, a five-story rock climbing wall at Auburn, and a 500-foot lazy river that spells out “LSU” at Louisiana State University are one of the biggest examples that show that colleges are transforming into playgrounds for rich kids. Louisiana State spent 85 million dollars on constructing a lazy river which they could have used to reduce the tuition.

Most U.S. universities receive billions of dollars in endowment, which they can use to drive the tuition down; instead, they spend that money buying expensive amenities for students. To be fair, the endowment isn’t like a bank account. It did come with restrictions.

Most schools have admitted that they only spend about 5% of their endowments annually. The world’s most affluent school, Harvard, has an endowment of 51 billion dollars which is bigger than most countries’ economies. And Harvard admits that 30% of their spending is flexible, which can be utilized towards reducing tuition for low-income students. 

According to the article in The Washington Post, at the typical selective school, 45% of students pay full tuition, and 55% of students receive financial aid. So it is clear that colleges cover the tuition cost of 55% of students from 45%. Studies have also shown that Prominent universities are admitting more international students who usually get in paying full tuition. 

It is still worth paying 200k for something you could find and learn on Edx or Coursera. The answer is yes. College degrees still possess higher earning potential than those without one. Especially for low-income students, a college degree can be the single best engine for social mobility.

Growing up, mostly everyone was told that the traditional way to land a high-paying job was to get into a good college. It is your golden ticket, and I believe that. It is accurate, and there are some actual facts in favor of colleges; over their careers, women with a college degree earn more than 450k more than high school graduates, and for men, it’s 660k more. Colleges used to be aspirational. It was your shot at a better life. But these days, you are not getting rewarded for getting a degree. It is kind of expected from everyone. 

According to a Study on the employment rate for college graduates, there is a difference of 13% or 6% between college graduates and high school completion. The distinction needs to be more significant to care about. 

The scenario is quite different than it used to be. Skill matters more than degrees now. You can still have a high-paying job without having a college degree. Big companies like Tesla and SpaceX have started to attract and retain some of the brightest minds from all over the world with no degree required. The hiring process requires two things, First-hand experience, and Hands-on testing. The C.E.O Elon Musk, known for discrediting traditional education to find the top talent, has also said, “Colleges are basically for fun, not for learning.” 

If you clearly cannot afford college and have planned to go into debt which you will be paying off for the next 30 years after your college life, think twice about what values you are getting out of these schools. It is clear that colleges have turned into a business, and you must make sure you get what you pay for.