As the 2014-2015 school year draws to a close, many high school students around the state are already looking toward next year. The summer before one’s freshman year of college is filled with many milestones like orientation and registration. However, there is one decision that few students are probably looking forward to: deciding how much student loan debt to take on.
The cost of college has risen at an exponential rate over the last couple of decades, and Texas colleges have not been immune to this trend. According to a recent article in the Houston Chronicle, Texas colleges’ cost of tuition has more than doubled since 2003, the year the state did away with tuition regulation. This has allowed colleges in Texas to raise their tuition prices as much as they wish with no interference from the state.
The change in tuition prices has been enormous. The average cost of tuition for Texas colleges in 2013 was $3,951 per semester. Of course, this does not include the cost of housing and meal plans or any other fees students may incur.
Students are now leaving colleges with record high amounts of debt. (As the cliché goes, student loan debt numbers have now climbed higher than those of credit card debt.) As the state funds less and less of Texas colleges’ budgets, universities are pushing these costs onto students and their families. There are cheerful reminders from colleges to “apply for scholarships” and “talk to your financial aid office,” but students rarely receive significant amounts of scholarship money or other forms of “gift aid.” Instead, they are encouraged to apply for more loans, and colleges tend to act as if these loans will benefit a student enormously. Perhaps they will in the short run, but the student is still saddled with thousands of dollars of debt after college.
According to a recent article in the Texan, there have been six bills supporting tuition regulation filed in the Texas Legislature. These bills only serve to emphasize the fact that more and more students in Texas are finding it difficult or simply impossible to pay for college. Tuition rates can (and usually will) increase from year to year. This makes it so that students who stay at one college for four or more years end up paying significantly more at the end of their college career than they were at the start.
Many university officials are in favor of keeping tuition deregulated. UT System Chancellor William McRaven was quoted in the Texan as saying that universities should remain deregulated, and should be “smart and thoughtful about how [they] have tuition increases.” Of course, having universities be “smart and thoughtful” about tuition increases is ideal. the past few years have shown that tuition deregulation has led less to thoughtfulness and more to substantial price increases.
It is certainly possible that tuition regulation could bring with it a larger set of problems. It is hard to imagine, however, that it would place an even greater burden on students. With tuition deregulation, students are being forced to take on massive amounts of debt as universities raise or keep prices steady every year. Many prospective students are even forced to give up on college entirely because of prices they can’t afford.
University tuition should be re-regulated so that students are able to afford higher education. As it stands, students are pressured to take out an ever-increasing amount of loans in order to keep up with payments. If circumstances do not change, more and more students will have to give up on the thought of having a college education.
As next year’s college freshmen make their decisions about where to go and what to do, they should not be made to feel as if they are drowning in loans before they even step on campus. They should feel free to pursue their chosen career path without the threat of debt hanging over them.
Dolan is a journalism freshman from Abilene. Follow Dolan on Twitter @mimimdolan.