By: Angel Liang — Correspondent
While the wages of Americans gradually increase at a snail’s pace, the price of college tuition has skyrocketed. According to Brookings, “adjusted for inflation, hourly wages in the very middle (the 50th percentile, or the worker who makes more than half of all workers but less than the other half) grew 12% between 1979 and 2018.”
Compared to that, in 1977, the average cost of college was $20,000. In 2020, the average cost of college is $302,789.22. While average wages have only grown about 12%, the price of college tuition has grown 1,413.95% in about the same time frame. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “college tuition experienced an average inflation rate of 6.52% per year.”
With this huge increase of tuition, there are two ways colleges seek to be inclusive: financial aid and affirmative action. First, let’s define financial aid. Colleges offer all types of financial aid such as grants, scholarships, federal grants, and work-study.
The federal government offers federal aid using the FAFSA form, then many colleges use the form’s data to offer their own financial aid. According to the National Center for Education Statistics records that the average total federal aid in 2007-08 was $8,070. White Americans had the most total aid as well as federal aid.
If whites have the most total aid from all ethnic groups, then how do colleges increase diversity in their student body? The answer is affirmative action. According to Harry J Holzer, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University, “Affirmative action refers to a set of policies and programs in the US under which employers, universities, and government agencies take positive steps beyond nondiscrimination to improve the labor market status of minorities and women.”
Underrepresentation of minorities in college can be traced to many historical factors, but a huge voter in college decisions is cost. Thus, there are two ways that colleges work to bring tuition costs down: one, by financial aid, and two, by allowing more underrepresented minorities to attend college.
Because college costs so much, many students are feeling the tension of remote learning. Many students have filed lawsuits against colleges asking for tuition reimbursement. The Community College Review states that “students filing the lawsuit alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment, seeking unspecified damages, fees, and costs. They argue that their universities prevented students from receiving the benefits of in-person education by closing campuses. Though these institutions are still offering some level of academic instruction via online classes, the students allege they are still being deprived of certain benefits.”
These benefits include “computer labs, libraries, and networking opportunities.” However, the U.S. federal government has since suspended student loan payments as of March 13th, 2020, but only provided relief until September 30th.
Unfortunately, the expectations students had while paying these loans have changed drastically and whether the price of college will pay off is also in question. This year’s class of 2020 will be entering into one of the strangest workforces. Nicole Smith, a research professor at the Center of Education says “The Class of 2020 is graduating into an economy that has the highest unemployment rate and largest decreases in GDP since the Great Depression.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported a loss of 7.7 million jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
A college education has been increasingly a requirement for jobs, but the tuition increases and the economy continues to suffer, making it hard for students to see the real benefit of higher education.