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Editorial: It’s time to do something about the outrageous cost of college

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Midway through the summer of 2016, the financial analysis website Market Watch developed a “student loan clock.” It estimates the total student debt in the United States. Today, the clock reads somewhere in the ballpark of $1.5 trillion. It increases by $2,726.27 every second.
There is no better way to increase lifetime earning potential than a college degree. According to the U.S. Department of Education, individuals with bachelor’s degree typically earn 66 percent more than those without a post-high school education. Over the course of a lifetime, Americans with bachelor’s degrees earn $1 million more than those with no greater education than a high school diploma. Georgetown University reports that by 2020, 65 percent of U.S. jobs will require a postsecondary education.
As the U.S. continues to rely more and more on college graduates, the correlation between an educated populous and GDP has become increasingly clear. In fact, U.S. News and World Report cited an Education Economics study that found education may even be the “biggest single driver of economic development.” To put it bluntly, if there’s one thing that lawmakers need to do to increase the GDP in a growing world marketplace, it is to increase investment in education.
Even as a college degree is more important than ever, Americans are having an increasingly hard time getting one. Perhaps the main reason of this is the rising cost of college. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that since 1980, while average consumer goods have increased in price by 120 percent, the cost of a college education has increased by 260 percent. This increase has been even more dramatic in the state of Colorado. At CU Boulder, in state tuition has increased by a whopping 566 percent over the last 30 years. This increase is even more dramatic at CSU, where tuition has increased by 643 percent over the same period of time. This skyrocketing tuition has taken its toll on Coloradans, as the Institute for College Access and Success reports that the average student debt in Colorado currently stands at $25,840.
A large reason that major universities have become so expensive is their need to be competitive with other universities. Many of these colleges see their recreation centers as major recruiting tools. Student’s tuition dollars are funneled to multimillion dollar rec centers that put most country clubs to shame. From an “indoor beach” at the University of Missouri to a rooftop pool at Arizona State, rec centers have become the centerpiece of many campus tours.
Paul Lundeen, State Representative for District 19, recognizes the problems in cost that have arisen at these state universities.
“The universities say, they of course argue, that they’re in a competitive market, a free market, and that competition controls or restrains their tuition. My personal perspective is they let it run too far too fast,” he said.
Lundeen’s assertion is backed up by the facts from above. It’s clear that the principles of supply and demand aren’t keeping college costs as controlled as they have in other areas.
The high price of Colorado’s four-year institutions has made out-of-state options with generous financial aid packages more affordable for some Colorado students, including many at Palmer Ridge.
“I think a big win for the state of Colorado,… a big win for those organizations, would be to get more Colorado students to stay home and to participate in those colleges. I would encourage them (the colleges) to do everything they can to recruit the incredibly bright and capable talent we have coming out of our high schools into the schools here in the state. Let’s keep our students home.”
Lundeen aims to curb this problem by expanding concurrent enrollment opportunities around the state. This would allow more high school students to take college classes for college and high school credit. Lundeen introduced a bill last year to expand these opportunities, but was confronted with problems “getting the four-year educational institutions, the community colleges, and the K-12 system to come to an agreement that advanced the effort to get students more access to affordable college.” He is currently working behind the scenes in order to introduce another bill next year.
He hopes the new bill “will expand high school students’ ability to earn college credit, thereby making college more affordable for the students.”
However, Georgetown University further reports that if the current education rate is maintained, the U.S. will fall short by five million college educated workers of filling the 55 million job opportunities of 2020. In order to overcome this gap, other post-secondary education options need to be explored.
Associates programs and trade schools are options for students that are less prepared for traditional four-year universities. Associates programs are especially beneficial for students who hold full-time jobs while pursuing an education. In order to make associates degrees more available for prospective students, the government at the state and federal levels needs to increase the resources available to community colleges.
Above all, government needs to take greater responsibility for the education of the country. Excess spending at public universities needs to be reigned in, and rising tuition costs must be monitored and regulated. There’s no shame in a government investing in the education of its population. An increasingly competitive global marketplace demands a highly educated work force. If America truly wants to keep up, college needs to be more affordable for students.
In the time it took you to read this editorial, the total U.S. student debt increased by $654,304. The clock is ticking.

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The student news site of Palmer Ridge High School
Editorial: It’s time to do something about the outrageous cost of college