“Higher education is expensive, because we choose to make it expensive.”
This is an unpopular view, but one that I believe to be 100% true. The price of higher education simply does not need to be so high. No one is forcing students to go into debt. Whenever I see an article in the newspaper or on CNN about someone who is $100,000+ dollars in debt, I can safely assume that this person actively decided to make this decision and did not do so under duress. In fact, most of these students accumulated large amounts of debt from graduate school.
So, why is this the case? Why are students making these decisions that will saddle them with incredible amounts of debt?
I think a lot of it comes down to students following very conventional “wisdom” that happens to be both outdated and false. Two of these pieces of wisdom include:
1) Cost = Quality in higher education
When I was a college counselor at a fancy private high school in Connecticut, most students and parents assumed that the highest priced college and universities were going to be the “best.” This is not always the case. Sure, many private colleges offer a stellar education, but many do not. Instead of price (and admissions acceptance rates), students should focus on the outcome metrics that actually matter.
2) Students (and to a greater degree parents) remain skeptical of digressing from the “yellow brick road” of a four year college education
Graduating from high school, attending college for four years, and then getting a great job is so last century. Students now have countless options to achieve a high quality education and a pathway to a career, notably, bootcamps that are aligned to careers in the tech world. In fact, many of these bootcamps are free of up-front tuition through Income Share Agreements or ISAs.
The idea of a four year degree is also no longer a requirement. Instead, programs like Global Freshman Academy (which is a collaboration between edX and Arizona State University) allow students to start earning college credits while still in high school. Modern States Education Alliance also offers a framework so that students can get a jumpstart on their college degree.
What can students and parents do to lower college costs?
- Take AP and IB classes in high school, which can offer college credit
- Consider taking classes through Global Freshman Academy (it is free to join and you only pay for the credit when you actually pass the class, so there is no risk)
- Think about your career interests, and if you are interested in a career in tech, consider a bootcamp like Holberton, Make School, or Lambda School where there are no up-front tuition costs
- Start at community college
Additionally, students and parents need to start thinking about the cost of college well before senior year of high school. The first thing they need to do is get a sense of what the cost of college will look like for their families. Remember, the cost of college is different for every student and family! Luckily, the Net Price Calculator allows you to estimate specific financial aid packages for any college in the US. We recommend that you complete the Net Price Calculator for a variety of colleges to get a sense of how financial aid can vary from school to school.
The world of higher education is evolving very rapidly and it is integral for students, parents, and guidance counselors to stay on the cutting edge of these trends.