College tuition bubble motivates student sacrifices
March 15, 2012
The average college graduate leaves school with $27,000 in debt, and one in 10 graduates is unable to find work of any kind. By the end of this year, student loan debt is predicted to surpass the trillion dollar mark.
According to College Board, 70 years ago there were 1.5 million students enrolled at universities in the United States. By 2006, that number increased to 20 million. Meanwhile, the cost of tuition has grown exponentially higher. Just in the past 25 years, college tuition has risen three times as fast as individual family income. Over this past decade, tuition has increased at a rate of 5.6 percent each year.
Rising tuition costs and acquired debt have created a “college tuition bubble.” Similar to the housing bubble, which inflated the real estate market and sent prices soaring, the college tuition bubble has the potential to dismantle higher education. Bubbles develop when something becomes overvalued. Americans have grown to believe so strongly in a good education that the amount of unpaid student debt is perpetuating to the debt crisis America is currently facing.
College is arguably the best investment one can make; however, employment has recently become unpredictable, even with a college degree. Some argue that the possible negative results of a college education, such as life-long debt, outweigh the positives.
Some students even feel pressured to obtain a degree in an area of study that will guarantee a well-paying job. Thus, dreams have been sacrificed in order to survive in today’s money-driven society.
According to the New York Post, the number of bachelor’s degrees had risen to 1.5 million Americans by 2008, but few of those degrees were in the traditional liberal arts. Fewer than two percent of those degrees were in history and fewer than four percent in English literature. More than a third of undergraduate degrees are now earned in business, health professions and education. Colleges have become trade schools—but extremely expensive ones.
“It’s not worth the amount of debt incurred by students to study things that have nothing to do with their future careers,” said senior Natalie Gideon. “It’s impractical.”
It’s possible that Americans are fleeing the liberal arts. For decades, a liberal arts education was an exalted, essential part of American culture. Young people were encouraged to pursue inquiry in a well-rounded sense. Nowadays, the need for money and job stability surpasses the importance of breadth in education.
“It’s always hard to make a practical decision, but you have to think about your future in this economic climate. Once you establish yourself career-wise, you can go back and study the subject you sacrificed,” said Gideon.
Some still argue that breadth in a college education is an integral part of the American tradition that should not be forsaken.
“I think [a well-rounded college education] is worth it because in our society it is necessary. If you don’t have a college degree you’re starting off way behind everyone else,” said senior Lindsey Lanquist.
The dilemma produced by the college tuition bubble plagues high school students. Eventually, all bubbles must burst and equilibrium must be restored. It becomes a waiting game. Students must adapt to the current situation, yet deserting passions should not be necessary. Pursuing passions ultimately leads to genuine success, and students must not allow a bubble to intimidate them into sacrificing such passions.