All colleges are not the same. That's why there is such a price gap. The cheapest school nearest to Philadelphia is Elizabeth City State University, NC at just $3,335 per year according to https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-25-cheapest-universities-are-they-a-bargain/ and the 12th most expensive college in the United States, according to Statistica, is Philadelphias' University of Pennsylvania at $71,200 per year. The Department of Education's website wrote "Too many recent college graduates feel the weight of their student loan payments holding them back from fulfilling their full potential. And far too many prospective college students feel as though they are simply priced out of the education they need to set themselves up for future success. There is a significant opportunity gap as well. While half of Americans from high-income families hold a bachelor's degree by age 25, just 1 in 10 people from low-income families attain that level of education. Moreover, regardless of income status, high-school graduates who enroll in college too often fail to finish: barely half will complete their degree in a reasonable time at four-year institutions; and at two-year schools it's only about a third.
Since taking office in 2009, the Obama Administration has taken strong action to counteract the rising cost of higher education, including annual tax benefits by over $12 billion, which has helped our nation ensure more students are graduating college than ever before. Just 9 percent of students from the lowest income quartile graduate with a bachelor's degree by age 24, compared to 77 percent for the top income quartile."
There are a few things the government can do to help families make better financial decisions for college. I don't understand HOW colleges convince students to financially "buy" 4 years of education then increase the price annually. We need the government to "encourage" colleges that accept government funding through the PELL grant only if the colleges' agree that the "price" for the student stays consistent for 5 years. The problem with subsidized student loans is that colleges just increased the prices which covered the loan. Substantially increasing the financial bottom line for the college while also INCREASING the loan for the student. That's why the price of college rose much faster than the inflation rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://satyagraha.wordpress.com/2009/07/14/college-tuition-hyperinflation/ "College tuition and fees inflated at a much faster rate: nearly three times that of general inflation. Thus while it took $3.30 in 2008 to buy the same general commodities purchasable for $1.00 in 1978, for college tuition and fees nearly $10 in 2008 was needed to buy what $1.00 got in 1978."
Simplifying the FAFSA by collecting data from the IRS automatically without needing parental intervention and eliminating complex questions would help students tremendously. When we electronically file taxes, the information should automatically transfer to the state and federal FASFA websites. I love technology and HATE technology at the same time. All these technology processes make parents CONFUSED on how to set up an accounts on the various websites. Now we need FAFSA technologist and TAX technologist and library technologists because all these systems are completely different. This is now a burden for students and families to access federal student aid and afford a postsecondary education.
Colleges should provide the financial aid package by a certain date, say June 1st, so students understand that college is a FINANCIAL decision. Most students commit to college without even knowing the price. When I was 17 years old, I did not find out the price of the semester until after I moved into the dorm room. I told my child, I wasn't paying for a private schools landscaping and wind up PAYING for landscaping. Most students "commit" to a school based on the marketing of a pretty campus or a dorm room before the price is known. That is why having more college choices is NOT leading to better outcomes for students.
The government can intervene by helping families set proper criteria to select a more appropriate school based on finances. Too many low income high schools do not produce students ready for the college experience. In the first year, students leave with overwhelming debt and a feeling of rejection, which, in turn dims future prosperity. Government interventions are just one piece of breaking the DEBT cycle. Next week, we will look into the marketing produced by colleges and how parents can shield their students from the excessive brands behind the merchandising of the college name GAME.