The cost of college is outrageous. We need better financial aid for students.

Samantha Lee, Staff Writer

Remember when you were younger and thought, “College is so far away!” Well here’s your wake-up call: it’s right around the corner.

As the end of the 2022-2023 school year is slowly approaching, many high school seniors are scrambling at the last minute to fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and apply for the colleges and universities of their choice. The biggest focus on senior year has always been preparing students for college and the road ahead after high school, whatever that path may be, but the biggest question still remains: how are students supposed to pay for college?

The cost of college has increased rapidly in the last three decades, according to Forbes Advisor, and the demand for federal aid has increased as well. Deciding which college will give individual students the best opportunities is not an easy process, as location, major, and of course tuition costs are a few of the many factors that students will have to consider when applying for college.

The average cost of college in the US is $35,551 per year, according to Education Data Initiative, though it varies between schools and states. Let’s think about that for a minute. How many of us actually have that kind of money just sitting in the bank? There are student loans, of course, but the downside is that students will spend a good chunk of their lives paying back what they owe with money they don’t have. Some students, like me, refuse to take out student loans. With rising inflation, high demands, and living on minimum wage, society in general is struggling daily to make ends meet.

Simply put: the cost of college is outrageous.

Approximately $112 billion is provided for grants and loans each year in federal student aid, but that still depends on factors like income, children in your family, unemployment, and of course, the cost of college. Certain requirements of eligibility for federal student aid, like citizenship, academic performance, and enrollment or acceptance, can ultimately determine how much you receive in financial aid. Currently, there is over 1.7 trillion dollars of student loan debt in the US, and it’s continued to increase over the years. Research shows that on average, it takes about 21 years to pay off student loans, which is why taking out more than you need for school can cost you down the road. So how do students decide what’s best for them?

It all starts with figuring out what career path you want to follow after high school. On average, the vast majority of college students will switch their major at least once, which doesn’t come as a surprise considering most 17 & 18-year-olds typically don’t have any clue as to what career they’d like to pursue. The cheapest option would likely be community college, as fees and tuition are at a more reasonable price. Just make sure that your prerequisite college courses can be transferred over to the university of your choice if that’s what you plan on doing. Taking a Gap year would also be an option, as this would give students more time to save up for college and decide what career path they wish to take. Depending on what one’s future career field is, a four-year university may be the best option. Some jobs require more than four years of schooling, especially if you’re looking to become a licensed doctor or lawyer.

Or maybe college isn’t for everyone. You may be the type to join the military or workforce straight out of high school without ever planning to enroll in college. Some jobs don’t even require a college degree either. At the end of the day, the choice is yours and only yours, no matter how many people come up to you and try to tell you what you should do with your life.

As a senior myself, I’ve been bombarded with emails daily regarding the college application process and available scholarships. Just like my peers around me, I have yet to figure out how I’ll be paying for college, but rest assured I will not be paying way more than I should. I do value education – but it’s outrageous the amount that students are paying in the economy we currently live in. No thank you.

The cost of college is outrageous. We need better financial aid for students.