Sierra Canyon High School

Commentary: Rising struggle of college tuition needs more attention

Six years ago, Richard Morais revealed to Forbes Magazine a personal story about his 18-year-old daughter who got accepted to Johns Hopkins University. While the entire family was replete with joy, Morais and his wife started thinking of a way to tell their daughter that they couldn’t afford the $54,470 tuition.

Efforts have been made toward resolving this ongoing crisis of more families not being able to afford the rising college tuition. That same year, 2010, the Obama administration made a landmark investment of  $60 billion in Pell Grants, a subsidy for students with financial need who have not earned their first bachelor’s degree; this year, Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders advocated for a system of free college to establish a more educated country, along with Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton who aimed to allow students to meet the rising college tuition.  However, all these efforts haven’t eased the financial tension. In addition, our recently elected-President Donald Trump simply has not much to say about a concrete college plan, nor has he expressed any emphasis on this widely concerned issue.

Colleges becoming less affordable continues to be the focus of concern lower-income families. Rising college tuitions each year, according to Insider Higher ED, have priced a college education out of the reach of many lower, middle, and even upper-middle class families.

As one of the unlucky parents who cannot send their kids to their dream colleges, Morais felt the pain and shame of having to sell his house while also loading his daughter with huge amounts of debt. While millions of similar American families are facing the same financial burden, the tuition of top private institutions like John Hopkins, Harvard, and Yale have skyrocketed over the past decade, charging up to $59,550 for tuition. The average tuition fee is $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for state residents at public colleges, and $24,930 for out-of-state residents, according to College Board. The outrageous college tuition differentiates families into upper-class families who can afford the private tuition, and middle and lower class families who cannot afford the tuition of private institutions.

While being unfair to many students who are qualified for top colleges, 59.7 percent of students don’t have a chance to attend their first choice schools because of limited government support, financial aid, and scholarships, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. Yet, there is still no effective plan being taken by the federal government, to prevent the crisis of rising college tuition to define America’s social structure.

As a rising college student, I am one of the lucky ones who are able to choose the college of my preference and complete my education without any financial burden. But, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, 40.4 percent of applicants got admitted to their first choice school but could not afford the tuition. This situation is a major cause of higher income families monopolizing American elite education. However, there are other countries such as Denmark, Brazil and Germany, where college is for free or tuition is low as required by the state. Those countries generally have much higher tax wedges, a measure that shows how much the government receives as a result of taxing the labor force, and income tax.

According to Business Insider, Germany has a 49.3 percent total tax wedge in 2014, compared to the United States’ of 31.5. If the U.S. is aiming to ease the tuition crisis, higher income tax is inevitable and also imperative. America should push for a matching grant program that can encourage states to invest more in higher education while targeting funds for specific students. Attending college should be a right for all students, not a luxury.

It is the duty of the government to support college admissions, and also the duty of the states and individual schools to help students by spending more of their endowments in scholarships and financial aid. As for President Trump, more attention should be paid from him since increasing college affordability is not only the right thing to do because all students should share the right of pursuing higher education, but also a strategy for the U.S. government to prevent the outflow of talent.

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