One of the first things to pop up in a conversation about college is the price. Why does college cost so much? Is there any way to graduate without paying an arm and a leg? Or being buried in debt? Let’s break down why the price tag is the way it is, then we can talk about saving money.
Why Does College Cost So Much?
It’s a fair question to ask. The cost of college truly is staggering. Some cost upwards of $60,000 per year! Whether or not this high price is justified is a topic of ongoing debate. Here are some of the reasons why colleges charge substantial tuition fees.
Improving Campus Facilities & Amenities
Keeping things up to date costs. Colleges are constantly upgrading tech, building interiors, walkways, common areas, classrooms, and plenty more. Since many colleges have been around since the foundation of America, there’s plenty to upgrade and modernize. And a lot of the times it’s worth it. (Just ask anyone who had to live in a dorm without heating or air conditioning).
Wage Increases for Faculty & Staff
When it comes to teaching faculty, marketing and admissions employees, and other staff, only the best will do for most colleges. After all, you want quality and qualified teachers and professors. Hiring the best of the best in every field does not come cheap. Add to this the annual pay hike and this ends up being hugely expensive.
Supply & Demand
The fact that many colleges turn away more students than they accept is proof that the demand is higher than the supply. In such a scenario it’s easy for colleges to increase their cost of tuition without it impacting their acceptance rate. More and more students are going to college nowadays—and while that has many pros, it does come with a few cons.
A Bachelor’s Degree Is Practically a Necessity Today
Earning a bachelor’s degree is the minimum qualification necessary to get into most professional fields today. This means students have to attend college even if they have to borrow money to fund their education. Colleges are well aware of this and know they will attract applicants no matter how high they set their tuition.
The recession of 2008 changed the education landscape in America. Several states cut back on their funding allocations towards higher education. The lack of state funding put the burden of covering operating expenses and financial aid on individual colleges. This left many higher education institutions with no choice but to increase their cost of tuition.
All American college campuses are self-contained. Every campus has its own academic buildings, residences, parking structures, and other buildings. With electricity, water, heat, and other utilities, the cost of keeping each of these operational can add up. Older buildings are less efficient and their operational costs are even higher. Colleges simply add these infrastructure costs to the tuition fees. And that’s just one more reason why college fees increase year over year.
Keep In Mind: Sticker Price Isn’t What You’ll Pay
Some people see the sticker price and panic. For example, if someone saw that Stanford’s sticker price was $71,000 per year, they might not even bother applying. It’s a shocking number, but here’s the thing—very, very few students will actually pay that much.
Don’t look at the sticker price when choosing a college. Look at your personal net price estimate. A net price is what you’ll actually pay, when taking scholarships and financial aid packages into account. Colleges want you to attend and know that a huge tuition price tag can scare students away. To help fund your education, they’ll offer financial aid packages to help you out. Some of the most expensive colleges in the US—like Stanford—give out generous packages. Most students pay a fraction of that $71,000.
What You Can Do To Reduce the Cost Of College
Ok, enough of the doom and gloom. Let’s go over how you can save money and reduce the overall cost of college.
File the FAFSA
This is step one, no matter what. Don’t think you’ll get any federal aid? File the FAFSA anyway. You might just be surprised. (And many outside scholarships require you to have filed the FAFSA anyway). The FAFSA will connect you with potential federal aid, scholarships, loans, and work-study programs.
Apply to Scholarships
It may feel obvious, but it’s vital (and sometimes underestimated). Scholarships are free money. You can apply to all the scholarships that you qualify for and keep all the award money you win. Putting this money towards school expenses brings down the cost of college and reduces the likelihood of having to take out a loan. Or at least reduces the amount you’ll have to take out in loans. Every little scholarship counts, and can add up significantly. Start early, apply often.
Attend an In-State College
State governments subsidize your tuition fees when you attend an in-state college. This can reduce the cost of college considerably while still giving you a high-quality education.
Attend Community College First
Community college tuition is thousands of dollars cheaper than tuition at any public or private 4-year university. Attending 2 years of community college and then transferring to a 4-year university to finish out your bachelor’s degree can lower your overall college cost. More and more students are taking advantage of these 2+2 Programs.
Consider Work-Study Programs
Work-study programs are an excellent way to earn while you learn. You’ll get valuable job experience, resume points, all while earning a paycheck. Putting your income towards your college expenses will help bring down your total cost of attendance.
Graduate on Time
The longer you take to graduate, the more you pay towards college expenses. It’s not just the additional tuition fees that you have to bear. There are also the costs associated with board, food, transportation, and other school supplies. Stay focused. Work hard. Graduate on time and you will have paid the minimum amount towards college tuition.
Don’t Change Majors
One of the best ways of graduating on time is by sticking with your major. Changing majors can cost you a lot. To keep those costs down, take time to explore majors and once you make a choice stick with it.
Look for Used Text Books
Buying new textbooks can be a huge expense. Why pay that much when buying used textbooks can cost less than half as much? Every little bit counts when you are looking for ways to reduce the cost of college.
College may cost a pretty penny, but it may be more affordable than you originally thought. By knowing your options, you can reduce the overall cost of college.
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