As prospective college students, many of us worry about college costs. While acceptance rates for many colleges decrease, college costs seem to be on a steady incline for the past few decades. The price for higher education inflated 180 percent over the past four decades (Forbes). Average cost to attend a public university in many states is ~$30,000 per year as of 2022 (The Daily). And when everyone surges to find scholarships, loans, grants, and other financial aids to afford these prices, it begs the question: why are college costs so high?
It comes down to each college and how much tuition they choose to charge. These college costs are broken down into categories like faculty, services, and amenities. Prospective college students often prefer colleges with smaller student to teacher ratios in favor of a better learning experience. Professors at colleges are also well qualified and highly educated individuals who get an above average salary. This counts into the faculty costs. For example, over time, as the importance of better mental health facilities in education centers has increased, colleges have had to hire more staff to operate such facilities. Colleges spend sizable amounts on amenities such as dorms, campus attractions, dining hall food, educational facilities, and more. That’s because all these things can determine how many applicants the college attracts. Furthermore, after the 2008 recession, many states cut back on subsidies for public universities causing tuition rates to rise. California spends 12 percent of its general funds in education accounting to about 12.1 billion distributed amongst the UCs, CSUs, and community colleges (PPIC). It is notable that while the funding for UCs and CSUs has been on a decline for the past few decades, community colleges have been receiving more and more funding from the government.
With increased costs, average debt per student across the U.S. is at $30,000. So, how worried should we, as rising college freshmen, be about paying off these costs?
You have many options available that will help you minimize these costs as much as possible. Community colleges can be a source of higher education at lower costs. Colleges nationwide also offer financial aid through endowment grants, allocations from tax money, etc. Surprisingly, while the tuition prices seem to have increased over time, cost after financial aid has been stagnant. So, if you receive financial aid, you, as a rising freshman, might be paying a relatively similar amount as a graduating senior who received financial aid at that college several years before.
Admittedly, Gen Z remains disproportionately impacted by higher costs. More Gen Z between the ages of 20 to 25 have student debt than millennials did at the same age. Tuition for Gen Z is comparatively more expensive, and expected to continue rising. Living expenses for students have also risen. Inflation, higher housing prices, and overall higher costs of living seem rather concerning for our generation. Inevitably, concerns about living expenses lead to the recent political debates on topics such as UC strikes, higher minimum wage, inflation, and more.