>College Tuition Crisis in America (July 06 News Advocate)

Posted: November 19, 2004 in Columns

>I recently checked to see when my graduate school loans would be paid off and found out that the payoff date falls somewhere in 2017. I was in my mid-twenties when I finished classes. I’ll be 47 when they’re paid for.While going to school, I worked three part-time jobs and saved as much money as I could, paying for the balance with a few small scholarships and as few student loans as I could squeak by on. When all was said and done, the amount I had to borrow, plus interest was still almost $20,000. What happened in this country during the last 40 years that allowed college tuition costs to increase with such speed? Today, students have to take everything they earn while working as a busboy or retail clerk in high school, work 20-40 hours per week while they’re in college and during summers, and still take out massive loans to make ends meet. Then, if they’re like me, they get out of college, and marry someone who also has a ton of student loan and credit card debt.According to Nellie Mae, students who used credit cards to pay for part of their education reported an average credit card balance of $3,400 at the time they left school. My wife and I had about $10,000 in credit card debt when we finished school. We also had combined student loans of over $30,000.A study released by the State Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), during the 1999-2000 period, showed that 64 percent of students borrow money in order to help cover the costs of their education.As today’s students leave college and begin their careers, they’re so strapped with debt that they have to delay normal goals like buying a home and having kids. This puts them at a serious disadvantage compared to previous generations. Bankruptcies filed by the under-25 crowd grew to a record 94,717 in 2000 according to a Harvard law school study. So, how are our children expected to pay for college when the costs increase far ahead of the rate of inflation without any end in sight?Average public university tuition has risen at nearly twice the rate of inflation since 1982. How is this possible?I have two children. I hope that they can both go to college. I also hope that I can pay all or part of their way.That’s every parent’s dream. But if I can’t, I won’t for one-minute push them to go to college if they don’t want to incur the debt.I feel this way, because in hindsight, I sometimes wish that I would’ve forgone college. If I did, right now I wouldn’t be writing a check for 20% of my net earnings each month to pay for a degree that I earned almost a decade ago and will be paying for each month for the next 12 years — at which time I will have exactly one year off before I have to start paying for my oldest child’s college education.Something has to change. All of those politicians up for re-election who espouse their “pro-education” platforms need to check the rhetoric at the door, roll up their sleeves, and actually do something about college tuition costs. The government needs to step in and help the hard-working students who were fed the line that a college education would open all the opportunities in the world to them. Because, for a lot of young people, all it opens is the door to half a lifetime of financial struggle and frustration. ———Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

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