Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

That average American student graduating with a diploma in-hand and nearly $40,000 of student-loan debt hanging over their head? Yeah…that’s the way to send our students out into the world.

While I’ve been concerned about my personal finances in paying off my student loans for my *public*(?) university, what I’ve realized over the years is the privilege I still held/hold, regardless of that cloud of debt I’m constantly trying to subtly blow away, dismiss. I mean, at least I had enough resources to go to a good university in the first place; not everyone’s that fortunate. But while I can sit around and count these points of gratitude, remaining silent and inactive with respect to the atrocity of our higher education system’s cost would be irresponsible.

According to Amanda Ripley’s “Why Is College in America So Expensive?” a recent report showed that the U.S. is  spending more on college than almost any other country (the only other one being Luxembourg, which, ah-hem, offers its schools tuition-free to students), with Americans—including family and government contributions—spending about $30,000 per student per year, which is nearly twice as much as the average developed country is spending.

To put things into perspective, Ripley cites that one-third of developed countries offer free college, while another third keeps things cheap at under $2,400 per student per year.

While I empathized with what Ripley initially believed to be the culprit (e.g. “the curdled indulgences of campus life: fancy dormitories, climbing walls, lazy rivers, dining halls with open-fire-pit grills. And most of all—college sports”), what Ripley found was that the majority of our spending is going to routine educational operations, such as paying staff and faculty, which costs up to $23,000 per student per year. And if you’re a public-school student, you’re not necessarily paying less, as state legislatures have been spending increasingly less on students over the past three decades. This has caused, as we’re seeing (read: feeling), a shift in cost to students and a shift to universities functioning more and more as businesses, rather than as institutions supporting its students in preparing them for the world away from campus.