I’m fully aware of the fact that voicing concerns about the cost of attending ASU is kind of a softball of a topic to write on. After all, who among us wouldn’t like to see the trajectory of tuition change its course and start sloping downwards?
And while this is certainly not the first or last time anybody will raise an eyebrow at the ever-ballooning price tag on a college degree, it never hurts to remind ourselves of just how much we’re paying to attend ASU.
Over the summer, I spent a decent amount of time worrying about finances, as I’m sure most of you do. I have a scholarship that helps, and I’ve been spending my time working at the university to try to build up a cash cushion. While I still have to borrow money, I’ve never had to seriously wonder if I would be able to return to ASU this year.
Earlier in the week, I was talking with somebody in that dire situation. This person is from out-of-state and comes from a poor family. She has been working during the school year and over the summer to try to come up with extra money to help pay for schooling.
Because of this person’s economic background, loans became essential for her to pay for schooling. Now, under three weeks before classes start, she has been notified that her Parent PLUS loan has fallen through. She can’t find a cosigner for a private loan, and her parents have subpar credit.
She is now scrambling to find some way to return to ASU this fall. There are a couple of last-ditch possibilities, but none of them are a guarantee by any stretch.
Of course, this is only one person’s story. Sadly, there are plenty of people who find themselves struggling to afford university attendance, and many do find themselves taking on quite a chunk of debt.
According to The Project on Student Debt, graduating seniors in the class of 2009 held an average of $24,000 in student debt, with the average for Arizona being over $17,000. What’s even more sobering than the ever-increasing debt load college graduates find themselves facing? The job market.
According to a New York Times article from earlier this year, only 55 percent of college graduates under 25 hold a job that requires a college degree and only 22.4 percent are not working, while the remainder find themselves working in an arena that doesn’t require the diploma they went into debt to attain.
I realize that nothing in life comes free. People our age are going to have to work harder than past generations to find a job. However, the cost of attending college is tied (in the case of ASU) directly to the amount of funding the institution receives from the state, and that is something we have a lot (arguably) more control over than how the economy fares.
Our state needs to place a higher priority on education in general, and one of first steps should be making sure our universities receive adequate funding. Otherwise, college runs the risk of becoming something that only the “better-off” can afford without drowning in debt.
That is, if it isn’t already there.
Reach the columnist at email@example.com