Colorado students say college is worth it despite tuition increase and high debt levels.
It’s no secret that the cost of attending college is on the rise. This has invoked fear in American society where a college degree was once key driver of social mobility.
Politicians and lawmakers are beginning to catch on. Secretary Clinton is proposing a debt-free education for all. Senator Bernie sanders has popularized the notion of tuition free college. Legislators across states are attempting to make college more affordable for middle and lower class people.
While college may become more affordable in the future, current trends show that costs are increasing rapidly while its value is being contested.
Statistics from College Board show that the average cost of a four year, private university has increased from just under $2,000 in the 1970’s to $32,405 in 2015. Graduates today are living with more debt than ever before. According to TICAS, “Seven in 10 seniors (69%) who graduated from college in 2014 had student loan debt with an average of $28,950 per borrower”
These facts are causing academics and professionals around the country to question the value of a college diploma. Goldman Sachs argues that “the average return on college is falling”. The Economist notes that “Too many degrees are a waste of money”Despite these arguments, 17.3 million people were enrolled in undergraduate degree programs in colleges around the country.
So the question stands: why are young Americans still going to college?
Students at the University of Denver provide unique insight into this question. While most analysts are looking primarily at cost benefit analysis, they are forgetting that college is about more than return rates and profits. Students point out that there are other reasons for attending college that extend beyond financial gain. “I think social and personal development are huge,” says DU junior Avery Hitchcock.
Following national trends, the University of Denver increased the cost of tuition by 4.9% this past year. “It’s definitely something that is noticed,”Sophomore Blake Ballard says. “and people aren’t super happy with it.” While DU students may not be totally welcoming of the tuition bump, students are often clueless about where their money is actually going.
In a letter sent to all students and families, Chancellor Rebecca Chopp outlines the causes for the increase. Chopp notes that 61% of funds go towards faculty and staff and emphasizes the importance of the 11:1 student to teacher ratio. “For the most part, I get the attention I need from professors,” Hitchcock says. “and I definitely develop better relationships when the class sizes are smaller”.
The letter also highlights the importance of financial aid to the enrollment process at DU. The University of Denver’s total cost of attendance is $62,345 per year putting it well beyond average cost of college. However 81% of students are awarded financial aid at DU while others work on and off campus jobs. These opportunities alleviate much of the cost that comes with earning a college degree at DU. “Financial aid is a huge reason I came to DU”, Hitchcock says.
For DU students, college has much more to offer than a degree or prestigious credentials. Taylor Scott, a DU Sophomore, says that the college environment allows her to see different perspectives and have unique opportunities. “It’s definitely an investment in my future,” Scott explains. “But more importantly, its an investment for me personally because I love to learn”.
Taylor Scott, Sophomore, University of Denver, Oct. 1″
How has going to college helped you?
“College is really helping with my personal growth, more so than my future career”
Avery Hitchcock, Junior, University of Denver, Oct. 3
What valuable things do you learn in college?
“I think you learn about who you are and what types of relationships you value.”
Blake Ballard, Sophomore, University of Denver, Oct. 3
Why do you go to class?
“I go to class because I love to learn”.