The High Costs of Higher Education

For this blog assignment, we were asked to write about one thing that we believe should change in higher education. For me, the first thing that comes to mind are the outrageously high costs that are typically associated with receiving a traditional higher education. According to an article in Forbes, which can be found here, the average student loan debt is $32, 731 dollars. This is the averageĀ debt, not even the average cost. Many people pay different amounts during college that are not reflected in the average debt. Additionally, when one considers the opportunity cost from not working over four years, the costs are even higher.

It is no wonder that people find it difficult to justify going to college given the extreme costs associated. While people who receive a college degree do end up making more money on average than those who do not, they have to get over a large financial hurtle of student loan debt. This debt is also expected to be paid at a very financially difficult time in many people’s lives. Many people who attend a four-year college are basically starting their independent lives as soon as they graduate college. At this time in their lives, they often are making several large purchases, such as cars, houses, furnishings, weddings, costs associated with having children, etc. While this is easier for some than others, and everyone has different situations and associated costs, it would be safe to say that people are spending more money than normal at this stage in their lives. Adding high student loans in on top of all of these other financial obligations can make it extremely difficult on these people who are just starting out.

While I understand that there are different options which can be cheaper, and that these colleges and universities must make money, I feel that there could be several ways of cutting costs for many students. One example of this is the student fees many universities charge every semester. At Virginia Tech, these fees total about $1,300 dollars per semester. However, many of these fees that students pay may have nothing to do with them. For example, every semester, I pay an Athletic Fee, a Health Fee, a Rec Sports Fee, a Student Activity Fee, a Technology Fee, Student Cultural Activities fee, and a Transportation Services fee, all of which, to the best of my knowledge, I have never or have rarely reaped the benefits from. I do not use the gyms on campus, have only been to the on-campus health center once, do not play rec sports, do not participate in student activities, have never used the technology help center, don’t really know what the Student Cultural Activities fee is but I assume it has nothing to do with me, and do not use public transportation (and additionally have to pay $315.00 dollars per year for a parking permit). These fees total $1,115 dollars per semester (or 80% of the total fees that I have to pay in addition to tuition). This comes to $8,920.00 dollars over the four years that I will have been here that I have paid with no perceivable benefit to me. Not to mention the four years at my undergraduate college where I paid similar inapplicable fees.

$8,920.00 dollars (double that if you count undergrad) would go a long ways towards getting me started in life after college, and I am sure it would help other students as well. However, we are forced to hand that money over to the university, even though the fees have nothing to do with us. I believe that this should be changed. If I am paying that much money for something, I need to be receiving some perceivable benefits in return, because I am already paying an extremely high tuition just to be able to attend college (which is another topic for another day). The costs of attending college should be more transparent, and we should only have to pay for the services that are relevant to us. Making students pay these unnecessary outrageous sums just makes it that much more difficult on us during a financially vulnerable stage of our lives.


Friedman, Z. (2020, February 3). Student Loan Debt Statistics In 2020: A Record $1.6 Trillion. Forbes.

4 Replies to “The High Costs of Higher Education”

  1. Thank you for your perspective! I agree that the administration should be more transparent with the student fees. I was the VP of GSA last year and we spent the whole year trying to figure it out! It should be a lot easier to know exactly where all of our money is going. I also agree that parking costs are outrageous! At my previous university (Auburn) parking passes were no more than $100 for the year, and so $315 is just ridiculous. It seems a lot of the programs that the activity fees go to have a surplus of money and it is not necessary for activity fees to be so expensive.

  2. Thank You for your blog.
    Yes, I do agree that the fee for higher education is extremely high and as an international student, some of these fees are beyond my understanding. For example, the athletic fee you mentioned. Am I paying this fee for the university athletics program or with a perspective that I will be part of the athletic program someday? In both cases, I don’t think this should apply to me.
    University needs to be more transparent with respect to these fees and also need to understand that these fees instead of being fixed need to be as per needed bases. For example, a person with a car needs to pay the transportation fee and the parking permit fee seems to me as a redundant expense.

  3. I totally agree that cost of higher education in the US is pretty high and partly it is necessary to fund research that will be the future of the society but some parts that you mentioned in your blog are sometimes unnecessary. There are definitely a lot of people who do weigh the opportunity costs of attending college along with the actual cost of tuition and tend to drop the idea, eventually leading to lower paying job than the ones who do have college education. We need to think about these cases and lower the fees in a manner that is best for the students as well as the universities.

    Great Post!

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Hi Austin,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree, the costs of tuition in the USA are insane. I began to learn more about all the student debt for students in the USA when I started graduate school in New Hampshire. I often had colleagues talk about how much they still owed. The amounts of money were crazy. Some cases surpassed the $100K and in many cases this was after having other financial aids such as scholarships. This was a big contrast for me. I did my undergraduate in Puerto Rico (U.S. territory) but tuition expenses are not as high back home like they are here in the mainland. Another thing that was shocking to me when I moved to the USA was the price for parking on campus. When I started my undergraduate, the price for the parking permit was a one time payment of $7 and your permit only expireD after graduation. The differences are certainly striking given that we are talking about different parts of the USA. This just made me further wonder about the variation in tuition and related expenses across the U.S. How different it is based on the state or University you are attending?

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