Attending a four-year college may not be worth the financial debt that follows

By Nia Anthony

Elm Staff Writer

In the United States, attending a four-year college is viewed as a step in our own personal game of life. But is this step ultimately worth the cost to complete? 

Going to college is a generational trend, with some generations seeing more university attendance than others. It’s no secret that college attendance is rooted in classism, a luxury that only the wealthy can afford. Now, students across the country are realizing how little things have changed since students first started going to universities centuries ago.

According to Business Insider, as of the 2019 school year the total national financial college debt sits at $1.5 trillion, which equates to nearly $30,000 per graduating student. 

There are other alarming realities surrounding the financial weight of college, like Black families carrying more student loan debt than their white counterparts, and the fact that nearly three million senior citizens are currently still paying off their student loan debt. 

Student loans surpass motor vehicle loans and student loan debt exceeds credit card debt, according to the Federal Reserve. 

These facts showcase the student loan debt crisis as just that: a crisis. The financial dilemma is enough to make students wonder if attending a college they ultimately can’t afford is worth it, especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If young adults were able to attend college without the burden of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition, there would be more of us flocking to campuses. Many who can’t afford pricey tuitions have started to take charge and look for alternatives. 

Although community colleges in Maryland alone have appeared on popular college ranking and review websites like Niche, U.S News, and World Report, a stigma around community college still stands. 

Community colleges often host a more diverse background of students, and the education, camaraderie, and opportunities are virtually the same as universities, at a fraction of the cost. 

Nevertheless, popular opinion states that community college educations are not as valuable.

The same is true for trade schools, wherein students learn a specific trade in a shorter amount of time, and for significantly less money.

If there are less expensive alternatives to a four-year college, why do students put themselves through the stress? 

For a lot of us, staying on campus is part of the appeal. There’s nothing quite like the connections you make with roommates, friends, and club members literally within walking distance of you. Finally moving out of your parent’s house also strengthens the appeal. 

To many students, the on-campus appeal seems worth the money, along with their belief that attending a four-year university is necessary for success in certain majors.

According to Forbes, debt advisors are predicting the national amount of student debt to be near three trillion dollars by the next decade. 

We may start to see students prioritizing their wallets long term over their classrooms short term.

Featured Photo caption: Washington College is one of the many four-year colleges in the U.S. contributing to the rising student debt crisis. Photo by Mark Cooley.

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