The Rising Cost of College

Kerry Matthews, Staff-writer

The U.S. News & World Report recently released its ranking of the best colleges in 2020. With a highly-rated student life and strong academics, Princeton ranks first place once again, but as the university ranked the best in America, it costs $69,020 for only room and board plus tuition. Additional fees bring the average total cost of a year at Princeton to over $75,000.

Other highly-ranked universities, such as Columbia and University of Chicago, are considered some of the most expensive universities that have also reached over $70,000 a year in cost. 

The rising cost of college has in turn led to a rising amount of student debt, reaching around $1.5 trillion nationally. The effects of debt that is on average over $35,000 for most college graduates infect every part of the debtor’s life. Many have had to put off major life decisions, including marriage and having children, to handle their debts. Debts cut into the ability of Americans to save for retirement or to buy a home. In a survey done by “Forbes,” one in three people said student loan debt is the biggest stressor in their life, and one in five have said they cannot make the next payment. 

Student loan debts have even led many to suicide. Suicide rates in this country show that those with doctoral degrees are two times more likely to kill themselves than the average American, and according to “Business Insider,” the top four jobs with the highest suicide rates are physicians, dentists, veterinarians and chiropractors–all of which require some version of medical school. At current price levels, getting a master’s or doctorate costs over $40,000 on average. 

 While the impact of student loan debt on individuals has been present for several years, only recently has evidence arisen that shows their debt hurts the national economy and the government. With the inability of graduates to easily spend, profit coming to the real estate market and the banking sector lessens. People with crushing student debt are less likely to spend as consumers and have less capability to access various forms of credit due to poor credit scores. Student loan defaults–the failure to repay a loan in its full terms–must be covered by the federal government. 

The individual and nation-wide implications have reached such a peak that it has become a key factor of the presidential debates. 

From 1997 to 2017, the inflation rate of college was about 190%. Basic economic principles are at the heart of the college tuition crisis: supply and demand. As college becomes more normalized and necessary in the path to work, the number of students attending increases significantly, and when more consumers are demanding it, then the businesses–or in this case, the universities–have the opportunity to raise the prices. In public universities, supply plays a role too because when the government cuts back on the money it gives to their institutions, they have to find the resources elsewhere. That elsewhere has become students’ pockets. 

With Princeton at number one, Harvard at two, and MIT, Columbia, and Yale tied for third, the promises of the education available at these colleges attracts thousands of applicants every year. But those four years add up to over $200,000, causing many to question if it’s worth it to attend the top colleges. For a new generation of applicants, the question has transformed from “where do I want to go?” to “where can I afford to go?”