Why is College Tuition So High and What You Can Do About It?

College tuition fees just keep on getting more expensive every year. The continuous increase is due to a number of factors, such as lower state funding, growing demand, and the rising salaries of school administrators. Is the cost of college worth it? Is there anything you can do about the rising costs? Where can you find financial assistance?

College Tuition Statistics

The cost of a college education has been increasing steadily over the past 10 years. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more expensive.

According to a survey conducted by OneClass back in June 2020, over 50% of students cannot afford college fees. The survey polled over 10,000 students consisting of juniors, sophomores, and freshmen from more than 200 universities and colleges in different parts of the United States. 

About half of those who participated in the survey said they need to find new ways to fund their education, while almost 7% of the respondents said they had no choice but to unenroll and work full-time or find other education options.

But even before the coronavirus pandemic, many students already had problems with college tuition costs. CNBC Make It 2019 survey showed that college costs increased by 25% in the past decade. The average annual college costs in the US have tripled in 20 years to $35,720 per student

For the academic year 2020-2021, education costs $37,650 at private colleges, $10,560 for in-state residents studying at public colleges, and $27,020 for out-of-state residents studying at public colleges.

How Can You Make College Affordable?

Although college is expensive, there are ways to help you make the costs a bit manageable.

  • Go to an in-state public university. It’s because its average tuition cost for each student is $10,560 (for the school year 2020-2021). It’s much lower than the $27,020 that you need to pay per year if you attend an out-of-state public university. 
  • Attend a community college. Starting out at a community college is one of the cheapest ways to a bachelor’s degree. The average tuition fee at community colleges for one year is $3,770.
  • File your Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) ahead of time for financial aid even if you’re not sure if you’re qualified or not. You may be eligible for need-based programs such as Pell Grants or state-based college grants.
  • Apply for scholarships. You may find college scholarship programs that are merit-based, which means you need to meet or exceed a set of standards provided by the provider of the scholarship grant.
  • Get a student loan. You have several borrowing options if you need money to cover your college expenses. There are different types of student loans. These are direct subsidized loans, direct unsubsidized loans, and Direct PLUS loans. There are private student loans, too. These are issued by banks or other financial institutions.
  • Get a part-time job. If you’re looking for ways to supplement your budget for college, then getting a part-time job like offering tutorial services can help.  

What are the Reasons Behind the Rising Costs of a College Education?

1. States Invest Less In Colleges and Universities

States cut back their investments in colleges and universities after the Great Recession back in 2009. The decrease in funding was partly due to the economic crisis that each state had to deal with and the need to focus on other priorities, such as social security and health care benefits. 

Schools were forced to make up the loss of funding that they were getting from the state by increasing their tuition costs. Apart from that, the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) 2019 report showed that some states have already increased their revenues but their college funding has not yet returned to the pre-recession levels. Not only that, some schools have not rolled back their tuition even if their states have already increased their funding.

2. Rising Demand for Higher Education

The growing demand for higher education, along with the less funding from states, means there is less money available for each student.

3. Colleges Expand Offerings

As more companies need entry-level workers, colleges across the country are competing with each other to produce more students with undergraduate degrees. As more students come in, colleges have to make changes to their campuses, such as building more dorms, hiring more faculty members, and other improvements. Colleges spend a significant amount of investments on these changes. Unfortunately, they pass on these costs to their students.

4. College Executives Earn Big Salaries

Aside from the increase in the number of faculty members and capital improvements, high-ranking college administrators earn large salaries. The students bear the brunt of covering the costs of their college executives’ wages.

Is the Cost of College Worth It?

Taking into account all the reasons listed above, many students are wondering if the cost of college is worth it. The answer is yes if you refer to the data provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Those with a high school diploma only have an unemployment rate of 9% and median weekly earnings of $781. Meanwhile, people with a bachelor’s degree have an unemployment rate of 5.5% and weekly earnings of $1,305. 

The unemployment rates for those with master’s degrees, professional degrees, and doctoral degrees are 4.1%, 3.1%, and 2.5%, respectively. A professional with a master’s degree earn $1,545 per week, professional degree holders earn $1,893 per week, while doctoral degree holders earn $1,885 weekly.

Why Do You Need to Understand the ROI of Your Chosen College Degree?

You need to consider different factors when figuring out the potential ROI of your chosen degree. Is there a high demand for the career you’re studying for in your area? If not, you’ll likely have a hard time landing a job that’s in line with the course you’ll take in college. Don’t forget to compare the college costs to your future earnings so that you’ll have an idea if you can manage your student loan payments once you graduate.

What are the Effects of Rising College Tuition?

The rise in college tuition has positive and negative effects. On a positive note, higher tuition costs mean colleges have the funds to improve technology to aid student learning. It allows educational institutions to hire more experienced and qualified instructors, teachers, and support staff to help students with their needs.

On the other hand, increased college costs mean more financial stress for students and parents who have limited resources. Unexpected increases mean more out-of-pocket costs and school loans. These become a burden to students who have set their budget based on the current college costs. Aside from that, the financial assistance from grants and scholarship programs don’t increase to cover the rising cost of education.

The rising costs of education may also force some students to settle for undergraduate degrees instead of pursuing advanced degrees. Others may settle for community colleges instead of attending a four-year bachelor’s degree program. Some may even unenroll so they can work and save up. What’s worse is that there are students who decide to drop out because college has become too expensive for them. These are some of the reasons why college tuition should be lowered.

What are the reasons not to go to college?

The rising costs have stirred up doubts about whether there’s really a need to go to college. Here are some of the most common arguments that college may not really be for everyone.

1. You Need to Work

Students who are struggling financially may need to work full time. Given that, they may find it difficult to juggle work and studies at the same time. Since earning money is more pressing, they may eventually give up their studies. Although student loans are available, there are some who don’t want to apply for one perhaps because they don’t want to incur debt.

2. Student Loans Can be Overwhelming

It’s already been established that college is expensive unless you come from a well-off family. For those who have limited resources, taking out student loans is one of the options that can help them get by. But not everyone wants to take out a student loan. There are many people who don’t want to be burdened with debt well before they graduate and find a job.

3. You Have No Future Plans Yet

Many students go to school because they’re expected to do so. But this isn’t a good enough reason especially if you’ll be forking out a huge amount of cash for your studies. Going to college is a significant investment, you don’t want to waste money if you’re unsure of what you want to be in the future.

4. You’re Not Academically Prepared

If, for some reason, you’re academically challenged, then going to college may not be a good idea, at least for the time being. You can go to a community college instead, or work with a tutor who can help you prepare for college.


A college education is expensive for many reasons. The rising tuition fees can be attributed to less funding from the state, the rising number of incoming college students, colleges expanding offerings, and the high salaries of college executives. Although college can be costly, getting a college degree lowers your chances of becoming unemployed, and you’ll have higher weekly earnings compared to those who only have a high school diploma. You can manage your college tuition and fees in different ways, such as getting a part-time job, applying for a student loan, looking for scholarships, or starting at a community college.

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