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Guest Column: Eliminating debt for higher education

Higher education conceptual image with graduation cap and tassel

Graduation is an exciting time, but it can also place a large financial burden on students who graduate with student loans. | File photo/The Cougar

We are living in a time where colleges profit more than the students who are there to profit from their education.

It is no secret that the cost of higher education is constantly on the rise. This allows student loan companies to exploit students in need of financial assistance. From the perspective of a student, this is a lose-lose situation.

What ever happened to attaining a college education for a reasonable price?

It is time for students to profit instead of being overpowered by costly education expenses and debt traps. It is also time for college institutions to step up and offer more reasonable solutions to accommodate their students. Colleges can cater to both the institutions’ needs as well as students by adopting an income-based tuition system.

Income-based tuition is an approach that simply bases tuition rates on the expected income of students according to their area of study. Any amount of tuition should be proportionate to the entry-level income of all disciplines.

For instance, if a student is studying social work, that individual would pay in tuition what they are projected to make as an entry-level professional. This astounding concept would redefine higher education because now students typically pay the same tuition at their universities, no matter their area of study or expected income, after they graduate.

College is supposed to be a time where students invest in themselves. However, this is not always the case. The harsh reality is students get distracted by the increasing rates of higher education in which they are expected to pay.

There are students who work to pay their way through college. They simultaneously juggle the demands of both school and work, and this can create high levels of stress and anxiety for these students. Those who are extremely overwhelmed by balancing school and work are less likely to complete their degrees.

Colleges should be more concerned with raising completion rates versus raising tuition. With income-based tuition, college would no longer be unaffordable; students can pay tuition that is geared toward their chosen career path. Colleges can advise students on academic planning by basing their cost on students’ chosen career path and helping them invest in their future.

Colleges choosing to make education more accessible can result in higher completion rates.

There are students who feel obligated to take out student loans to attend college. This unfortunate circumstance is what student loan companies thrive on. As a result, they will have to repay the loan debt they accumulate throughout the years.

Students will graduate and be expected to pay on average an estimated $26,000 in debt. Paying student loan debt is like pouring money into a bottomless pit due to high interest rates. No matter how much you pay a month, it is never enough.

If higher education was not expensive, student loan companies would not be as successful as they are. Students would not have to pay as much in debt if colleges adopt this new tuition system. Even if students graduate with debt, it will be within their means of paying since their tuition was specifically catered to their area of study.

Students should not have to pay more for college than they will earn as professionals. It is unfortunate that income-based tuition is not incorporated in higher education. Now is the time for institutions to take a progressive approach toward making opportunities more accessible and affordable for all students.

Colleges owe it to all students to lower the cost of tuition. This would lessen the chance of students being burdened by debt from their degrees.

Rylan Flugence is a master’s candidate at the Graduate College of Social Work. She can be reached at [email protected].

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