When I was college shopping back in 2004, the idea of “tuition inflation” wasn’t on my—or most people’s—radar. We knew that college was expensive, of course, but I don’t remember my classmates or our parents thinking there was anything to be done about it other than working hard and, in most cases, taking out massive loans.
For me, however, loans were always off the table. My main criteria when looking at schools was that I’d be able to graduate debt-free. Given that my family isn’t named Rockefeller, that wasn’t an easy task.
So I went to the less prestigious choice of schools, which gave me a full ride scholarship. I worked long hours over the summers and took extra classes so I could finish a year early.
When I graduated, I didn’t owe a single dime. It was all worth it.
Most of my generation is not so fortunate.
As proud as I am about what I accomplished, my path simply isn’t available to most people. The scholarship I recieved, for instance, was only given to ten students each year, about 0.3% of my graduating class.
And my alma mater? Its tuition now runs more than $30,000 annually, which is a 50% increase in the last six years alone.
And don’t even think about paying that kind of bill with a summer job. Fewer and fewer college students are working their way through school now because it’s just not possible to make tuition payments with low wage jobs anymore.
In 1979, it took only one 8-hour day of minimum wage work to pay for a single credit hour of in-state tuition at a public university. Now, it takes 60 hours—a week and a half if you’re working full time, which is unrealistic for many students.
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