Lindsay Guion Discusses the rising Cost of Tuition in the United States
Prior to the pandemic, tuition costs in America were rising at unprecedented rates. However, as a result of lost revenue, fees being charged by colleges and universities are likely to increase. According to a study by BrokeScholar, tuition fees have more than tripled at both private and public schools from 1971–72 to 2019–20. Lindsay Guion, the music industry expert behind the Bessie Smith Scholarship Fund, is concerned about the rising inaccessibility of a post-secondary education. Examining the rapid rise in tuition over the last four decades, we spoke to Lindsay Guion about the impact that the pandemic could have on students.
Student Loan Debt
Over 45 million Americans have student-loan debt, which contributes to a national total debt of over $1.5 trillion — exceeding credit card or auto loan debt. The average debt load for a student who has taken out loans is roughly $29,800, however, the average cost of a four-year post-secondary education is $104,000. Lindsay Guion explains that millennials face record levels of student debt as a result of two phenomena: an explosive increase in the cost of a college education and a lack of wage growth. The average annual growth in wages was only 0.3% between January 1989 and January 2016, which means that the cost to attend a university increased nearly 8 times faster than wages.
Unlike previous generations, millennials are now faced with a difficult decision, either to go to school and accrue debt, or find a job without a degree. The demand for higher education has risen dramatically since 1985; a college degree is now a basic requirement for almost all professional jobs, and not getting one can put you at a significant disadvantage in the job market. However, starting your career with a mountain of debt can also be a major disadvantage. Instead of saving income upon graduation to buy a home, purchase a car, or start a family, millions of Americans are straddled with crippling student loans that can take up to 20 years to pay off.
The Impact of the Pandemic
The costs associated with attending college and university were already reaching a breaking point for students, but as a result of the pandemic, a whole new set of issues are sure to arise. Institutions are suffering from lost revenue, fees, and room and board, which may mean increased tuition costs to try and compensate for losses. Lindsay Guion explains that state schools were already seeing their funding dwindle over the past couple of years, which has driven tuition costs even higher.
In addition, international student attendance was a primary revenue source for many institutions. With travel bans in place across America, this will have a major impact on schools that were already struggling to stay afloat. While schools are turning to cost-saving measures, including reducing the number of professors and implementing hiring freezes, many schools have also announced tuition freezes for the next year — a small sign of hope. It is difficult to estimate the impact that the pandemic will have on students and the student-loan debt crisis, but there is something you can do.
While it is unclear what the future of tuition fees will look like, Lindsay Guion suggests finding alternatives for funding that don’t accrue interest, including applying for grants and scholarships. The Bessie Smith Scholarship Fund is awarding three scholarships valued at a total of $5000 to students in need of financial aid.