Parents and their college-bound students are facing the paradoxical choice between lifetime benefits from higher education and the burdensome financial costs to attend college. Part 1 of this article addressed President Obama's plan in his 2013 State of the Union Address on Feb. 12, the new College Scorecard and redistributing financial aid towards institutions that control costs.
Part 1 also mentioned the importance of college prep in correctly calculating college costs by including hidden costs and subtracting financial aid to reduce the college bill with the federal FAFSA4caster tool.
How to make college more affordable is not an easy problem to solve. Helping families pay for college isn't the sole solution because student financial aid, like the minimum wage, rarely keeps up with rising expenses. That's why college costs must be contained.
It's important to understand the past and potential future of college cost. As promised, here is the college cost ghost of the past and future and the ghastly reasons why costs are rising. With this knowledge, parents and their college-bound will be able to use college prep to attend college without incurring insurmountable debt.
Part 3, the finale, is coming soon to explain how.
The ghastly reasons why college costs are rising
Economics plays a major role for increased college costs. A growing supply (college-bound students) and limited demand (institutions of higher learning) means tougher competition for admission and financial aid including scholarships and grants.
At the same time, colleges compete with each other to attract the most qualified assets (college-bound) to their campus. Colleges have learned the campus can be a college's greatest liability if it is not stocked with the best resources including top academic, athletic, technological and student-life resources.
Parents may not recognize their alma mater when they visit because of elaborate new landscaping, new five-star dorm accommodations, new Student and Athletic Centers, new services and programs.
Thanks to the next fiscal crisis, financial aid for education may lose out if Congress doesn't find a way to avoid the upcoming Sequester cuts.
The ghost of college past
Although both colonists and Founding Fathers valued higher education, access was initially limited by race, religion and gender. "Only white Christian males were allowed to matriculate. Women and African-Americans were denied participation by statute and custom, but colleges did serve Native Americans in a missionary capacity," according to StateUniversity.com.
Access to higher education was available to the wealthy but by the early 19th century, the higher education version of the Solomon choice appeared. A growing middle class struggled with the choice of the present loss of an able-bodied potentially income-producing son, or the brighter future prospects flowing from a diploma. For those women interested in a self-supporting and respectable career -- like teaching -- college became the gateway to new opportunities.
After the Civil War and by the end of the century, with the help of federal legislation, African Americans also gained increased but limited chances for higher education. StateUniversity.com notes:
On the one hand, the Morrill Act of 1890 provided funding for African-American education, which led to the creation of Negro colleges in seventeen southern states–a substantial gain in educational opportunities. On the other hand, the guidelines meant that the U.S. government accepted and endorsed state and local practices of racial segregation.
The ghost of college future
The expansion of higher education is again in jeopardy. As more and more families are unable to shoulder the cost of college, access to the traditional campus experience will again be limited to the wealthy who can afford a diploma from a private school that costs more than a couple of middle class homes.
College costs of attendance continue to grow faster than the rate of inflation. It still takes the average student close to six years to graduate from a 4-year college, adding to overall college costs. Public university sticker prices average less than those from the private sector, but a diploma can still cost more than $100,000.
Competition for admission will skyrocket at those higher education bargains known as public schools. As middle class students seek a more affordable diploma, more students will apply to lower cost 4-year public colleges or start at even lower cost 2-year community colleges with the hope of transferring to a 4-year school to earn their bachelor's degree.
More students applying to the same number of admission spots means more students will receive a rejection letter and more students will not be able to achieve their college dreams. More Americans will not be qualified to compete at home or in the global market place for better jobs, more money and a better life. The middle class will continue to shrink and lose opportunities as higher education again becomes a luxury of the wealthy and powerful.
Brick and mortar institutions add more online courses and programs to compete with online-only schools. More students turn to online options as a cheaper way to earn a diploma. They do without the perks and networking opportunities of a campus experience that the wealthy and privileged can afford. The market place determines the value of new online degrees in comparison to those from traditional colleges.
Read Part 3, coming soon, for what parents and students can do to curb college costs.
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