An Intern's Voice: College Affordability and Accessability

Today’s competitive job market and unique economic climate have without a doubt increased the importance of higher education in the view of the collective population, making the availability and affordability of college a common topic of conversation.

According to a recent Gallup poll a majority (61%) of American citizens believe that education beyond high school is available to everyone in the country who needs it. This outlook on availability is promising, as it can result in diverse learning environments which will yield a higher population of educated Americans than ever before, an opportunity I am lucky to be experiencing firsthand. Recent optimism regarding educational opportunities have resulted in classrooms filling with students from all walks of life and have allowed me to form relationships with individuals whose backgrounds could not be more different from my own. However, this statistic is down 6% from last year when 67% of Americans thought that higher education was available. It is difficult to tell whether this slight change of public opinion is a simple coincidence or change of judgment, or whether it is a burgeoning implication of our realization of how difficult it is to afford college today.

As a student halfway through a bachelor’s degree program, the newness and thrill of college has begun to wear off and the mountain of debt and financial insecurity that comes after graduation looms on my horizon. While I recognize the privileges that my education will grant me, it is hard not to sometimes feel like I’m biting off a little more than I can chew financially, and the aforementioned poll proves that I’m not the only American who feels that paying for college is getting to be pretty difficult. According to the poll, only 21% of U.S. adults think that education beyond high school is affordable. If I were to hazard a guess I would say that this statistic is telling of our population’s workforce, many of whom are silently suffering and saving in order to pay off their own student debt.

Not to say that I feel as though I can offer a solution, but the 250% increase in tuition at public four-year colleges is certainly a problem. A recent study has found that over a third (35%) of those who have graduated from U.S. colleges from 2000-2014 report graduating with over $25,000 in debt. It isn’t difficult to see why American citizens are discouraged by college affordability after looking at those numbers, especially after considering the importance placed on a college education today.

The poll indicates that in the public’s opinion the importance of a college education is staggering. Sixty-Nine percent (69%) of the individuals polled stated that they think it is very important to have a degree or professional certificate beyond high school, and an equal percentage claim that in the future it will be even more important to have a degree or professional certificate in order to get a good job. When analyzing this data one may assume that young Americans are viewing college as a necessary debt, and are voluntarily dooming themselves to futures of financial difficulty in order to increase their chances at having a good job and (hopefully) one day reaching economic stability and prosperity.

Students should not need to leave college crippled by debt. Young Americans should be leaving school ready to chase their dreams and begin their adult lives, but are instead being tied down by student loans and ridiculous financial obligations which force them to throw away money that could be stimulating the economy in an innumerable amount of other ways. It will be the responsibility of my generation to make the changes necessary to make our current system of education affordable so that those of the future will be able to learn comfortably and without the weight of a mountain of debt on their backs.

To read more about this poll, click here.
To read more about Liam Reilly, click here.