Everyone knows, college is very expensive. Those who can’t afford it, end up having to take out loans, digging themselves into a huge amount of debt. Last semester, I read a book for my sociology class called Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream by Sara Goldrick-Rab. The book basically talked about how getting a college degree is your only way to pave yourself a path to a good life. In order to get a good, well-paying job, you will always need a college degree. Without one, your options are so limited and you have to work an unreasonable amount of hours a week just to provide a roof over your head and supply yourself with food and water. The book talks about how the financial aid system works. The financial aid system works on the assumption that money flows from their parents to the student, rather than the other way around. Most students end up paying for their own debt later in life, which sometimes takes half of a lifetime. In my opinion, the interest rates in order to take out these loans are way too high to manage.
Earlier last week, my friends and I were talking to our uber driver whose wife is still paying off her student debt at the age of 45. Some people have to pay as much as three times more money than they took out. In order to pay off those debts, students often work full or part-time jobs. Those who work full time are struggling to keep their grades up while working two jobs might cause them to decide to drop a class or two. If they do, it’ll cause them to lose so much aid (especially through Pell), therefore penalizing them for being poor. This system needs to change, and it needs to change fast.
Tuition is not the only thing students have to pay for in college. They have to pay for food, housing, and textbooks. I had to spend about $300-400 buying textbooks my first two semesters here at VCU. On top of books, dining plans come across as helpful and reasonable, but it can also be seen as a ripoff. Once you add the amount of money that is used for free spending and going out on the weekends, it really makes you take a step back and reevaluate where your money is going towards. Most classes require you to purchase the required textbooks, and not doing so results in you missing homework and not being able to won’t be able to do homework or miss out on the material taught in lecture. My hope is that moving forward, there will be changes in our education system. Changes that could include lowering tuition costs, lowering interest rates for loans, and fixing the financial aid system. Money that is given out through financial aid needs to be directed towards students who physically need it, rather than the people coming from stable households. In order to provide everyone with an education that they deserve, these changes need to made as soon as possible.