Cost keeps some from college advantage

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    Attending a university is expensive. Despite all the grumblings about rising tuition, about the loans that must be taken out to pay for college and about the debt that students incur from paying tuition, the cost of attending college continues to rise.

    According to the College Board, the annual tuition of attending a four-year public university is $11,990 for out-of-state students, and to attend a private institution, the average annual tuition is $27,293. And even though $154 billion worth of financial aid was awarded to undergraduate students during 2009-10, two-thirds of four-year graduates will have some debt after leaving school.

    There needs to be a radical change in the way our university system works and the way the government, both state and federal, works to help deserving students pay for higher education. Bold plans, such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s proposal to have the cost of earning a bachelor’s degree in four years cost $10,000, are needed to make sure graduates are not burdened with high debt and that all deserving students may be able to afford to attend a good college.

    At a time when the labor market is shaky, more and more graduates are leaving college with high levels of debt that they will simply not be able to pay off. Yet the U.S. university system does much more than simply saddle graduates with debt.

    The current system is, to put it bluntly, unfair. There are people in this country who will not be able to attend a good college, not for lack of drive or intelligence, but because they just cannot afford to attend a first-rate university.

    The average student debt for the class of 2009 was $24,000, according to a projectstudentdebt.org report. At a time when the average American is heavily indebted, total student loan debt has exceeded credit card debt at nearly $893 billion.

    And it’s not as if the current college students are getting hired right away 8212; according to an April 2009 USA Today article, employers planned to hire 22 percent fewer graduates. This will invariably lead to graduates being unable to pay off their loan debts and defaulting on them.

    In a country with such a strong spirit of people bettering themselves through hard work and determination, it is a crime for people to be unable to educate themselves when they put in the hard work only because they are unable to afford college. It is foolish to relegate a segment of the population to perpetual lower-class status because they cannot afford to pay to attend a good college.

    As for those who are able to attend and graduate from college 8212; albeit with the help of loans 8212; their debt, coupled with other debts incurred over their lifetimes, could lead to an entire generation being unable to afford the same standard of living as other generations. And although a degree should eventually be able to repay that debt in the form of a better job, it is unclear how long that would take and what effect it would have on the economy if there were a massive amount of people who defaulted on their loans.

    Make no mistake, though 8212; the United States has the best universities in the world. In the 2010 rankings of the world’s top 200 universities by timeshighereducation.co.uk, seven of the top 10 spots are occupied by American universities, and 15 of the top 20 overall are American colleges. This shows a huge competitive advantage the United States has over the rest of the world, but not all can take full advantage of this because of costs.

    If the government works to form plans like Perry has, though, it would be an investment in the future that would produce great dividends for America.

    Jordan Rubio is a freshman broadcast journalism major from San Antonio.