Take big business out of education


Ellen Dooley, Columnist

If there was one thing I learned in high school, college will be expensive and I must stand out. It was always having the best SAT or ACT scores, doing extracurricular activities, or making connections. Was my high school wrong? Absolutely not. To get a secondary education, I need to take out loans that will probably take me a decade or a half to pay off. Or, who knows, maybe Publishers Clearing House will come knocking on my door tomorrow.

There are $1.75 trillion in student loans in the United States, with around $28,950 in debt per borrower on average, according to Forbes-Adviser. Doesn’t it seem insane that a person can come out of school with enough debt that could have been used to buy a new 2022 Buick Encore GX?

While looking at debt data from Forbes, the highest number of borrowers per age group was 25-34 years old. This could be people completing their bachelor’s or master’s degrees. There’s a correlation between these numbers between the higher amount owed and the older age group. Either debt kept rolling over, or the more advanced degrees meant they may have taken out more loans.

The national average debt after graduation is $25,921 with monthly payments of around $275, according to the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. Compared to the national totals, EIU does not look too bad. Although EIU is a little lower than the national average, I take that as a win. It is about a $4,000 difference. That is $4,000 you could put towards a car, apartment, or even house.

I started to look into the history of EIU’s tuition. According to an EIU financial aid fact sheet from the Department of Institutional Research, the tuition in 1999-2000 was $2,321. The 22-23 tuition projects a 318.3 percent increase of around $9,708.. The 22-23 school year projected tuition is $9,708. That is a 318.3% increase. You could get about two years of tuition in 2000 with the amount of money you would pay this upcoming school year.

In the 99-00 school year, 51.3% of students had loans. The amount of aid was $22,681,685. 39% of students received grants and scholarships that totaled up to $17,236,075. EIU also counted student employment as a form of financial aid. 9.7% of students received a total of $4,271,437 in aid.

The most current fact book is for the 2020-21 school year. I was a little surprised by the next number. Only 36.7% of students had loans. Now, this was still at the height of the pandemic so some numbers may have been affected. The total amount of loans was $31,001,597. The surprises continued for me.

Grants and scholarships were received by 56.8% of students. That amounted to $47,939,773. Notice that the grants and scholarships are higher than the loans? Student employment made up 6.5% of financial aid received. That totaled up to $5,437,623.

Although financial aid went up, tuition also went up. It seems like a never-ending game of catch-up. Tuition goes up, financial aid goes up, but then tuition hikes back up again. The never-ending circle keeps a financial burden on students. There is no real help for students if everything is just increasing at the same rate. It is just the same problem at higher numbers.

In a perfect world, it would be sunshine and rainbows for everyone to go to school for free. Bills need to be paid for and employees need compensation for their work. But is it fair for students to be in debt for 10-15 years or even more? It does not seem right that the most educated are the most in debt. The hope may be for an advanced degree to lead to a career with a higher wage, but that may not always be the case.

We as students are just trying to make it through college, but as interest rates and the cost of living seem to skyrocket day by day, it makes it even harder to get by. For us who make it, we receive a piece of paper that is supposed to change our lives; but why is this piece of paper costing us an arm and a leg. Why are we breaking our already fragile bank?

Tuition needs to be discounted. Obviously, this is a complex problem to solve, but in order to make education more accessible to those who want it most- change is needed. If we want a more educated society, we need to stop dangling it over the heads of those who simply cannot afford it. While there are programs that assist those, not everyone is reached.

Obviously, this is not the full story, but it is just the surface of the problem of our educational system. Instead of focusing on making money, institutions should focus on their main objective- educating those who want to learn and succeed.

Ellen Dooley is a sophomore special education major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].