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The Real Fear for High School Seniors

As I think about college next year, my biggest concern isn’t making new friends or thriving academically, rather I am stressing about paying for my education. Our country is experiencing a student debt crisis, said debt is estimated at $1.4 trillion. To make matters worse, the current government is not on the side of the students, instead they have chosen to support the loan companies.

According to CollegeBoard, public four-year college tuition for instate students averages $9,410, for out-of-state students it averages $23,890, and for private colleges it averages $32,410. These numbers do not represent the complete cost as financial aid, room and board, transportation, books and personal expenses are not included in the calculations.

There is a correlation between the “prestige” of a school and its tuition; take for instance the Ivy League universities. The average tuition for the Ivy League schools is $51,486. Even if students are accepted into their dream schools, they often cannot go due to finances. Students are limited in the quality of education they can get based on costs.

Currently, a little more than a third of adults (ages 25 and older) have a bachelor’s degree or higher. There are almost 20 million students enrolled in college at this moment. These statistics show that getting a college degree is becoming exponentially more important to be competitive for desirable jobs. A Georgetown study, concludes that the lifetime wage difference between individuals with a high school degree versus a college degree is one million dollars. Students are motivated to go to college to expand their knowledge and to be competitive in the global market.

However, our government does not want to support us in gaining these needed degrees. This much is evident in the decisions made by President Donald Trump and his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. In the 2017 tax reform bill, Trump originally wanted to axe the student loan interest deduction and only returned it after public outrage. For those in their early 20s working at their first jobs, a few hundred dollars makes a large difference. Even worse, in July, Secretary DeVos proposed to replace some Obama-era rules outlining the process for students defrauded by schools getting their federal loans. This proposal would make it harder for students who have been defrauded to get their federal loans. This proposal is expected to make a $13 billion cut over the next decade by reducing the amount of loan relief awarded to students. Thankfully, in October, a judge ruled that Secretary Devos could not change the Obama-era rules.

I am a current senior in high school starting to apply to college. I can attest to the weight the cost of college has in my mind. I realize how lucky I am because college is a reality for me. However, our government is not doing enough to make a college accessible to everyone, and we need to make real change. One step forward is Governor Brown’s Oregon Promise Grant, which covers tuition costs at any Oregon community college for recent high school graduates.

How forward thinking would it be if all students had access to free college and were not fearful of debt?

Victoria Siegel is a senior at Lincoln High School and a Student Voice Blogger at Oregon Student Voice, a student-led organization that empowers all students to be authentic partners in making decisions that affect their K-12 education.

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