How to pay less for higher education

We need to do something about the cost of college. Via Flickr user JPott.

We need to do something about the cost of college. Via Flickr user JPott.

Along with the weather and griping about taxes, the soaring cost of college tuition is an accepted topic of conversation in the U.S.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the grim stats. From 2003-2004 to 2013-2014, tuition and fees at public, four-year universities rose 4.2 percent — every single year. That means if tuition and fees amounted to $12,000 a year in 2003-2004, it jumped to more than $18,000 a year just a decade later. And that doesn’t even include room and board.

College tuition cost is rising faster than almost anything else in the U.S., including the average inflation rate. And a university education is not a luxury; for most people, it’s a necessity in order to not only get a job that pays the bills but also hold a successful career.

So something has gotta give here, people. It’s only a short matter of time before the typical family can’t afford four-year university tuition for their kids. Higher education is also one of the main ways people can better their lot in life, so if tuition isn’t manageable, how can people rise above?

In 2013, President Obama announced his three-step plan to combat the astronomical costs of university, but we shouldn’t rely solely on the federal government to do something.

Obama gave his three-step plan; here’s my two-point plan.

  • Two-year colleges. When I attended a four-year university, during the summer I often took core classes at a community college near my parents’ home. That not only allowed me to graduate a semester early, but community college classes also save money. Annual tuition and fees are cheaper ($3,264 for two-year, public colleges in 2013-2014 vs. almost triple that amount for four-year, public colleges). When I attended community college classes, most people were going there to take their core classes for two years (which is what you do during the first half at a four-year college anyway), graduate, and then move onto four-year universities. In addition to the lower tuition, local community college allows many people to live at home, saving on room and board costs.
  • Online courses. What once was ridiculed is now in style. Some universities, and of course Coursera, offer online classes to anyone in the world who wants to learn. This is a great trend for a few reasons. First, the only expense to the school is the professor teaching the class, some server space, and teaching assistants if required. Without a room to worry about, you can fit as many students as you want into the class. Second, these online classes are often cheap or free. Yes, online courses may require students who are on the more self-motivated side, but they can work.

There you have it. Some ways we can combat the rising cost of higher education is by attending and investing in two-year colleges and in online courses, and shedding our collective prejudice to accept them as viable ways to earn an education.

The cost of college climbs every year — let’s start combating it now.

 

What do you think of my points? Have any others you want to share?

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