A college education is an extremely important part of today’s competitive marketplace. So often we now see job seekers being turned down due to lack of education because the job market is so saturated with college grads. Not being a college graduate automatically puts a candidate at a severe disadvantage. A degree in liberal arts, economics, or electrical engineering doesn’t mean as much today as the piece of paper saying that one is simply a college graduate. Economists refer to this as a screening/signaling device for employers. No longer are employers concerned about what one’s college concentration is as much as they view the degree as evidence that the potential employee is intelligent, trainable, and has the discipline to be a good employee. This makes a college education ever more important in today’s marketplace.
Although most people you talk to would agree that a college education is important, if not vital, the ability to obtain one is getting more and more expensive. According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, not adjusting for inflation, college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 while median family income rose only 147 percent during the same period. This is a shocking figure showing college expenses rising nearly three times faster than income in a 25 year span. Although costs have been on the rise, this hasn’t stopped, or even slowed enrollments. In fact, according to National Center for Education Statistics, between 1987 and 1997, enrollment at degree-granting institutions increased by 14 percent, and by another 26 percent between 1997 and 2007.
So why do college costs continue to rise if enrollment is rising? Several factors impact the rises in college expenses, not the least of them being the rise in enrollment itself. When student enrollments increase, colleges must hire extra faculty members to handle those increases, build additional facilities to accommodate the rise in student body, and generate more revenue to help procure in-house scholarships. The faculty alone costs the average college between half and two-thirds of its annual budget. All of these expenses add to the higher costs of tuition.
Beyond the cost of tuition, there are many ancillary factors which contribute to higher overall costs. Some of these expenses include room and board, textbooks, travel expenses to and from class, and other general cost of living expenses. All of these additional costs have also been rising over the past few decades, which has helped contribute to the 439 percent increase in college expenses between 1982 and 2007.
WAYS TO SAVE:
Although it seems that college costs are outpacing income – and possibly the added benefit for many families – there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are many ways to cut back and save money throughout the college experience. When a potential student hears the price tag of $30,000 a year for a private education, they almost choke. However, rarely do students pay the “sticker” price for a college degree. There are many financial aid programs available to a variety of different degree-seeking students. They range from the above mentioned in-house scholarships programs for things such as outstanding achievements and grades, being members of certain fraternities or sororities, sport scholarships, private scholarships, and state/federal grants. A new trend is also starting to emerge where employers subsidize or reimburse employees who seek higher education.
Besides the cost of the education itself, there are still several ways to save on the additional costs associated with obtaining a college degree:
• Many colleges have on-campus housing which is typically cheaper than renting an apartment for many students. If your school doesn’t provide on-campus housing, or you would rather live off campus, posting ads at your school for roommates is a great way to cut cost on housing.
• College meal plans are another way to save. Food costs have been rising at a significant rate over the past few decades. Purchasing a college meal plan each semester is typically cheaper than paying for food outside the campus walls.
• If public transportation is available, it can be a great way to cut costs. With rising fuel costs, public transportation can be cost effective, especially if you live close to your college or university.