Adult students paying for college out of pocket have had to learn the hard way how to fund their education. With rising tuition costs, age and work experience have prevented many adult students from receiving financial aid. In struggling to make ends meet within an ever increasing degree based society, students continue to struggle financially to earn their college degree while the economy slowly improves. The major concern that most adult students are facing is the looming debt, the projected loss of income, and increased expenses, even knowing full well that the amount of time and money being spent is an investment in their future.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s 2009/2010 tuition statistics, the average cost per year for tuition at a public, four-year institution is $14,256; the average cost for a four-year private institution was $31,704(1Students are realizing that the proverbial dream of graduating from a four year institution debt free has become nearly impossible. Debt seems trivial when compared to landing a post graduate job; however, there is no guarantee that students will find employment in their field directly out of college.
The problem that adult students face is that they do not qualify for scholarships and personal banking loans and are forced to apply for government financial aid. According to adult students, age, independence, and the fact that most of them are employed is not factored into FAFSA enrollment, it appears to be solely based on income. Also, many students find outstanding debt intimidating when their futures are unclear. The result: private institutions are experiencing a decrease in enrollment, losing students to cost efficient, two-year vocational programs (2). Tuition costs skyrocket to make up the difference, leaving the lingering four-year students to pick up the tab. Loans have become more difficult to obtain and parents have had to find alternative means of paying for their children’s education because many of them lost their investments when the economy crashed.
When questioned about inflated tuition costs and Federal financial aid eligibility, Economics major and University of Washington student, Margaret Baskin said, “…Tax payers are investing billions of dollars annually into what is rapidly becoming the ‘know-how’ economy. Businesses are relying on educated professionals more and more, and the ‘Roaring Twenties’ industrialism is gone. Rising tuition costs, a steady increase in the average family income bracket, and swelling state and federal financial aid requirements are outrunning the rate of inflation. If a college education is the ticket to prosperity, it is clear to me that only the rich or completely destitute Americans will be able to afford it. Sorry, middle class, you are not worth the government’s investment.”
It is unclear what will happen to adult students as they continue to give up on completing their degrees. By lowering tuition costs and providing more financial aide options for average students, colleges could jump start enrollment, providing the needed revenue to stay in business; the question is, will they do it? Perhaps the financial burden of being a full time student will change as the economy improves; however, it appears that adult students will believe it when they see it.
1. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2010). Digest of Education
Statistics, 2009 (NCES 2010-013), Chapter 3
2. Sara Lentz. “Two-Year Colleges Keeping More Students in Economic Downturn.” Deseret News
1 Feb 2011 http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700106288/Two-year-colleges-keeping-more-students-in-economic-downturn.html