Post-secondary education is consistently pushed on minors. In many high schools, courses exist specifically to prepare students for the college experience. Many students do not get the advantage of questioning whether or not college is worth it because they are brainwashed to believe it is the only way they will succeed.
However, with the continuously rising costs of college, some students are beginning to push against the norm. Some are petitioning for freezes on tuition or cancellations on student loan debts, while others are requesting more loan forgiveness programs.
Why are students going to such extreme measures regarding the prices of tuition and fees?
Because the prices are absolutely ridiculous.
Within the last 20 years, four-year post-secondary institutions have increased tuition and fee costs by 136.5%, and four-year post-secondary public institutions have increased tuition and fee prices by 179.2%. This is 1.5% higher than the rate of inflation by 171.5%.
Why do colleges keep raising their tuition and fee costs, and how can we combat these issues?
1. Increase State and Federal Funding
Problem: Since the Great Recession in 2008 under President George W. Bush, many states have cut their funding for post-secondary institutions including both two-year and four-year colleges.
Solution: Voting for governors and other state representatives who have aligning ideals as you, including extra educational funding to post-secondary institutions, is the most promising way to maintain or decrease the current cost of tuition and fees that students have to pay out of pocket.
2. Increase the Student Body Population
Problem: College populations are decreasing, especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, even more financial burden is placed on the shoulders of currently-attending students.
Solution: In order to, at the very least, maintain the current tuition and fee cost per student, colleges should try even harder to recruit and retain freshmen and transfer students. Numerous ways of implementation exist including:
- Engaging on Social Media Platforms: Many colleges nowadays already have social media accounts. However, they should take it one step further and try to relate to their audience (also known as future high school graduates and students at other colleges). Interacting humorously with personal TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter accounts (among many others) is a great way for colleges to show students they care more about the students’ well-being and personality than money.
- Treat the Current Student Well: By treating current students well, the college will retain the current population, build their reputation for future populations, and possibly build their reputation to surrounding populations, thus recruiting non-traditional students and students from other colleges.
- Consistency: College admissions should consistently check up on prospective students. While I currently attend Winona State University, I nearly chose the University of Minnesota because they called me at least once a month after I submitted my application, requesting both my presence at admissions events and my future enrollment. This consistency made me feel like I was wanted and appreciated for who I am and the skill set I have. (For the record, it was a really close call between both schools, but I chose WSU for the cheaper price and beautiful scenery.)
- Encourage User-Generated Content: With public and collaborative platforms emerging more frequently, such as TikTok, colleges should encourage current students to create content based on their college experience and viewpoint. Prospective students love to hear from their peers more than a stiff President or Dean.
- Host Live Virtual Events: Nowadays, especially with ever-increasing gas prices, it is challenging for prospective students to take time out of their schedules to tour campuses in different states or even countries. If college admissions host more live virtual events, including virtual live tours, then prospective students will be able to familiarize themselves with the campus while asking questions without the hassle and cost of traveling a far distance.
3. Cut Unnecessary Funds
Problem: While I wholeheartedly support the diverse opportunities across my campus, sometimes more is not better or merrier.
Solution: Cutting unnecessary funds should be the first step to maintaining or decreasing the cost of college tuition. Hundreds of clubs on campus are nice, but colleges need to provide funding for these clubs, and not every club is beneficial. Don’t get me wrong, I think a club to experiment and eat potatoes is cool and all, but is it really needed? Or how about that professor who every student seems to hate yet somehow still has a job?
4. Prioritize Major Programs
Problem: Colleges offer many programs, but only a few have the highest turnout/population.
Solution: Public colleges should come together to prioritize major programs based on areas of expertise. For example, Winona State University has an area of expertise in Nursing and Education programs. These should be two out of, say 20, majors. Then other low-populated majors, such as the art and design programs, can centralize in college with that specific area of expertise, like University of Minnesota Twin Cities or Minnesota State University Mankato.
5. Reduce Textbook Costs
Problem: Textbooks and other school supplies cost an annual average of approximately $1,240, equating to $620 per semester on average.
Solution: Students should be allowed to use their student accounts for off-campus textbook and supply purchases. While using other off-campus companies, I was able to save over $200 in the Spring 2022 semester. In previous years, I was unable to participate in these savings because I did not have the money in my bank account, thus charging my student account—and ultimately paying extra—when I purchased textbooks at my on-campus bookstore.
6. Make Transfer Credits Easier to Manage
Problem: Nearly 40% of transfer students have zero credits transfer when they go to a new college. Sometimes, these moves between colleges are necessary due to familial obligations, financial situations, and more.
Solution: Public colleges nationwide should come up with an easier system to ensure students are able to transfer credits, thus saving the students thousands of dollars. All it would take is the collaboration between public colleges nationwide and some tweaking of the current system.
7. Be More Selective with Offering Professors Tenure
Problem: Students avoid taking classes with extremely rude and challenging professors, therefore extending their college graduation track and increasing their debt.
Solution: College departments should be more selective when offering tenure to professors. Departments should also listen to the honest opinions of students prior to offering professors tenure. I understand the goals and advantages of tenure are to allow professors the ability to perform research without the worry of political and societal pressures influencing their research. However, many tenured professors are disliked by their students and seem to use tenure as a way to emotionally torture students since they “cannot get fired.”
8. Support Timely Graduation and Be Transparent
Problem: The average Bachelor’s degree, which is usually advertised as a four-year degree, actually takes 5.1 years to complete on average.
Solution: Colleges should not keep piling on graduation requirements to students seeking basic degrees. For example, my major of Communication Arts and Literature Teaching (basically English teaching) is advertised as a regular Bachelor’s degree taking four-years. That was my knowledge when applying for and getting accepted to college. However, upon enrollment, my major advisor told me it was unrealistic to expect to graduate within four years—I should expect at least five years for my Bachelor-degree-earning major. Had colleges been transparent and honest with me, I would have thought twice about both my college attendance and my major.
At the end of the day, I think college is worth it, but I do not think the funds are being allocated and handled properly in any sense. Thousands of dollars per student can be saved if colleges took the time to care for their students like they claim.
The facts throughout this article are devastating to college-age students who pay for their own college. Some are barely scraping by, and 1 in 3 (approximately 33%) college students experience food insecurity. If the college prices were lower, students might be able to actually…ya know… live rather than survive.
If you are interested in fighting the ever-increasing cost of college tuition and fees, consider partaking in petitions and voting located in the hyperlinks above. We should also encourage minors to follow their true passions, even if it doesn’t involve a post-secondary education. The only way we can make a difference is if we come together.