In the United States the price for in-state tuition at public universities has increased by more than 237% in the last 20 years. Tuition for out-of-state students at the same universities has increased 194%. At private universities which are typically more expensive to being with, the average tuition has grown 157% in the same time period. Of even more concern perhaps, in the correlated increase in student loans. Over just the last ten years, student loan balances in the United States have increased more than $833 billion, which brings the total of loans to $1.4 trillion, the highest it has ever been. A college education is now the second largest expense someone in the United States is likely to make in their lifetime, second to only purchasing a home. In fact, because of the massive amounts of debt many students graduate with, young adults of this generation are delaying buying a house. They are even delaying things such as getting married and having children because of the debt. The benefits of a college education have long been known. Students who graduate from college are more likely to have a steady job and financial security. According to the most recent College Board report individuals with a college education are also more likely to move up the socioeconomic ladder, will be less likely to rely on public assistance, they are also more likely to have healthier lifestyles, and more likely to be involved in their children’s activities. Even when we know all the benefits, many people still act like a college education is a luxury. However, it was less than a century ago that high school wasn’t seen as a necessity. Just like high school has become a necessity, college has too. A college degree is a prerequisite for most jobs with security and benefits. K-12 is free because it is seen as necessary for society. In many countries such as Germany, Denmark, and Iceland, higher education is seen the same way and provided to students like K-12. One study shows that new spending on public colleges produces more economic activity than a similar-sized tax cut. Unfortunately, with the current state of affairs of tuition prices and student loan debt many students experience buyer’s remorse. A college education is supposed to set students up for a more productive career and working life, yet when over 13% of the country’s population carries at least more than one student loan and many carry 3 or more, that is no longer always the case. 6 in 10 millennials have no idea when their loans will be off. Over 50% say they wish they had not taken out student loans, and almost 40% say they would have never gone to college if they fully understood the costs. The problem is even larger for minorities and families that do not have many resources. Even though college enrollment for low-income students is up, many do not graduate. Students are enrolling, but they are not being successful. Many drop out because of the debt they are taking on. The Higher Education Act was a great step forward for college access. It gave us the federal student loan program, tuition grants for low-income students, and many more programs that made college more accessible than it was before. While this was a great piece of legislation and opened doors for people who could not access college, it is no longer enough. More needs to be done to set up students for success instead of saddling them crippling debts that makes them unable to attend college at all or enter the workforce with debt that keeps them from other life events. We need to come up with solutions to make college more affordable. Many colleges continue to raise tuition because they lose state funding. How can we push the make sure our public colleges and universities are seen as a priority, that is it not acceptable to voters to continue to make cuts to higher education? Need-based aid and institutional resources can also help to make college more affordable. Investing in career counseling and other resources to make sure students have adequate information to choose colleges and program they will be successful in will also be helpful in the long run. College should not be something only people with resources can afford. It should be available to everyone as an important part of society. Students should have to worry about crippling debt to be able to afford an education that has the potential to set them up for a more secure future. As a country we should stand with out students and fight for the more affordable education that they deserve. College leads to more people in the workforce, more people paying taxes, and more educated people taking part in the community. There are benefits to everyone when young adults have access to a high value, affordable higher education. Sources

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