Julia W. Illinois

Making College More Affordable

College tuition has tripled over the past three decades, so we need to find new ways to make college affordable for low-income families.

Dear Future President,

The US, the 1st in college accomplishment a generation ago, stands now as the 13th. Tuition for college in the US has tripled over the last three decades, but the common family’s salary has barely shifted, thus making college impossible for some students.The US needs to change the way we pay for college, so a college education is attainable for students from low-income families.

Problems with college tuition affect families with the lowest income the most. The Department of Education says, “9 percent of students from the lowest income quartile graduate with a bachelor's degree by age 24, compared to 77 percent for the top income quartile.” Low income students can’t afford to attend college, but most jobs require a college education. Families resort to grants or loans, but these solutions don’t cover full tuition. Trade Schools, Colleges, and Universities says, “In 2013, a federal Pell Grant covered only about 30 percent of the average cost of going to a public four-year college” Even a common grant, like the Pell Grant won’t cover the cost of college. Students then resort to more drastic measures, like loans.

The Department of Education says,“Between 1992 and 2012, the average amount owed by a typical student loan borrower who graduated with a bachelor's degree more than doubled to a total of nearly $27,000.” Students feel forced to take out loans, likely causing defaults later. The problem is you can’t avoid loans by not going to college.The Department of Education writes, “Today, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require education and training beyond a high school diploma.” Most jobs need a higher education, so college correlates to a successful future. Students need college, but can’t afford it and their financial status soon falls in jeopardy.

Some people believe the solution corresponds with free college. Andrew P.Kelly wrote that, “For instance, California has the cheapest community college fees in the nation. During the recession, enrollments boomed and the state budget for higher education took a hit. Unable to raise additional revenue through a tuition increase, California’s community colleges turned away 600,000 students.” Free college won’t work. We’ve seen in California what happens, but what about the free colleges in Europe? Abby Jackson said, “If the US were to go the route of European countries that finance free college by taxing the income of citizens, the tax wedge of 31.5% would likely increase.” If we use free tuition, our taxes go up. This makes the tax payers pay for tuition, not helping low-income families. Free tuition for college will not solve our problem.

We need to continue Obama’s work by increasing Pell Grants, providing resources students need. We need to research systems that won’t leave students in default after college. One innovative idea by Steve Cohen is that, “Colleges should offer an alternative to traditional loan programs by allowing students to defer up to 75 percent of the cost of attending school — tuition, room, board and fees — and pay it back over 20 years. Repayment would be based on a sliding percentage of what the student defers and then later earns.” Government loans have already used this before, why not for college? This plan will have a smaller interest rate and good opportunity for colleges to appeal to the middle-class. This plan eliminates loans and default.

Maybe tuition deferment isn’t the idea to solve this problem, but we need to start implementing plans that will encompass the needs of all classes. Don’t make college free, extend resources for people with aspirations to get them.


Julia Woods

Gurrie Middle School

McGovern Period 3/4

Ms. McGovern's Period 3/4 ELA Class

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