Higher education doesn’t come cheap. In fact, to say it’s actually pretty expensive is an understatement, and college students everywhere are seeing a rise in tuition and finding themselves burdened with debt at the end of their four years. It’s becoming a constant: graduate high school, go to college, graduate with debt. But it shouldn’t be like that, and universities, specifically Penn State, should be putting their best foot forward in combatting this problem so that fewer students are taking out loans that they can’t comfortably pay back.
The key to this is education. There needs to be an emphasis on education on both ends of the spectrum — students and universities. Both should be doing their part. Both prospective students and current college students need to be planning smarter before and during their time in college. Many students are financially illiterate. From the bursar bill to FAFSA forms, the break-down of financially related facets of our lives are not second nature. Most of us do not know how to understand the ins and outs of what these forms and fiscal terms really entail. But we should. We must start becoming more financially independent. Eighty percent of Penn State students have some sort of loan.
In order to ensure we’re not biting off more than we can chew, financial literacy needs to become a more present part of our lives. Unfortunately, financial planning is not a guarenteed aspect of our formal education. Though it should be. The university should develop a program, like AlcoholEDU that forces freshmen to understand the financial background and the basis behind rising college costs, in an unstable economy. We need more specific information, which really should be presented to prospective students, so they know exactly what they’re getting into before committing to the university. It would also be beneficial to require all students take a financial literacy class, once enrolled. This would not only be practical, but it would also be able to hopefully avoid situations in which students are graduating with a large amount of debt. Every student takes a freshman seminar class —Penn State would do some good at encompassing a financial aspect into each of the various curriculums. And before that, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to ensure every single accepted freshman had a specifc, detailed breakdown of their potential cost of living, so they can realistically make decisions on how and if they should proceed to officially enrolling in Penn State.
On top of that, students shoudn’t be afraid to speak to their parents about this. Students should be discussing how they are going to pay for college, how much they’re expected to pay and what the cost entails.
Yes, it may be an awkward conversation to have. As students we need to be preparing ourselves more efficiently for the cost of higher education.