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RLS0812

Why Is Higher Education So Expensive In The U.S. ?

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The phrase "you need a good education to get anywhere in life" is a fact of life, especially in the US were the job market is horrible ( 12.1 applicants for every 1 job opining ).

 My specialized certifications have not been getting me much work in the last few years ( despite getting more of them ), so I decided to look into getting a bachelor degree ( 4 year ) in ether computer science, or electrical engineering.

 

 The costs of this blew me away !

 

The cheapest community college I could find, charges $24,000 per year ( not including books and supplies ), and the average cost of living in the area would run an additional $14,000 ( cheap student housing were the school is located ).

 That's $38,000 PER year.

 

 After chatting with the admissions office, and doing a lot independent research, I'm only eligible for $4,500 in government loans per year. ( I'm not qualified for "special interest" grants or loans ) .

 

 With that being said, no private institution ( bank, loan agency, e.t.c. ) is willing to give a student loan of  $152,000 - mainly due to my income of $18,000 - $31,000 a year .

 

 How am I ( or anyone else in the same situation ) to get a better education, when it it literally unaffordable ?!

Edited by Shippou
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Well, first, that shouldn't be the cheapest community college you can find. That's pretty comparable to the local state university today, with a top-10 Computer science program. Granted I started college 10 years ago now, but the figure you came up with is more than what I spent on (3 years) at a private and very specialized school.

 

I agree in general that higher ed is ridiculously expensive, and its been increasing steadily for awhile. I wish I knew why that was, specifically, but your guess is as good as mine. My theory is that higher-ed is among one of the first places to show the result of inflation, because the "production costs" at all levels and thin margins give administrators no place to hide it.

 

Frankly, the entire education system is out of whack in the states. It used to be that if you weren't "college bound" you could at least leave high-school with a reasonable trade to provide a living wage. We don't do that anymore because we spend all our time training children to pass the standardized tests -- hence, everyone needs to go on to some form of higher education, even if they only want to pursue a trade -- if you don't, you get a service-industry McJob, or no job at all.

 

With the supply of potential students at an all-time high already and perpetuated by the correct observation that no-degree means fewer career prospects, the market for higher-education will bare a much-inflated price, and that unfortunately disqualifies those who cannot afford to keep up with the Jones'.

 

Its crap. Its depressing. And I have no idea what to do about it.

Edited by Ravyne
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Its a business designed to take advantage of you and keep you perpetually in debt.  

 

The economy is horrible.  A college degree now gets you what a high school diploma got you in the 90s.  

 

Getting a degree doesn't mean anything either, as the market is shrinking but the job applicants are growing.

 

This means that relying on others to create jobs for you is not always an option, and one needs to start being creative and inventive.  Or fill out applications to work in retail or mcdonalds.  

 

That being said, our community college here is where many go to get their general credits out of the way first.

 

I joined the army and served for a while and they paid for my college in return.  I was not about to saddle myself with that much debt like many of my friends did.  

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You can't go to a local community school while you work (take night classes)? That seems to be pretty standard here for my co-workers who don't already have a degree.

 

Were you looking at all apartments around the area or just designated student housing? At my school, student housing was always exorbitant, with cheap apartments located not too far away from campus. Have you looked at scholarships instead of loans? EE should have some pretty sweet ones available. Also, did you see what loans you could get if you quit working and were a full time student? That should change the math for loan availability.

 

Like Ravyne was getting at, have you looked at cheap state schools instead of just community colleges? I went to NMSU and we were almost legendarily cheap.

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There's a very long history about WHY American universities are so expensive. It's a myriad of reasons and forces that have driven costs up by several thousand percentage points over the last sixty years or so, after you account for inflation. While that's all very interesting history, it isn't very helpful. In America, money speaks loudest of all and that's that. 

 

You should be able to go to a state university for a bachelor's degree for a cost of around $12,000/year in tuition, depending on what state you live in -- which my crystal ball tells me is PA and puts you in the Penn State system. Looks like tuition charges range from 12 to 16 thousand depending on which campus you choose. Cost of living is on you, so let's simply take your fairly reasonable $14k figure and say you're around $30k/year at the main campus. From your income, you'll be expected to contribute some amount of tuition, and depending on your age your parents' incomes may also be factored into the calculation. For loans, you're probably expected to have a cosigner who would typically be a parent.

 

Consider that tuition payments are also a total tax write-off. You'll be able to contribute pretty much your entire income pre-tax to the school, which will give you more flexibility in funding your education than you would normally have. The schools often have internal programs to offer aid, separate from the largely worthless federal programs. If you're able to put in$10k a year from your own pocket, and the govt loan is another $5k or so, that's covering about half. The remaining loan of 15k/year might be attainable even without a cosigner, depending on how your credit rating looks. If you finish in four years, you'll graduate with $60k in debt and a nice degree in CS or EE, which is probably something you'll afford to clear in 5 years or so.

Edited by Promit
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Cost depends on the school.

 

I just looked up three of the local schools (we have 12 nationally-accredited universities within a one hour drive).

 

The cheapest is a community college that also offers several BS degrees, at $1671 per semester for full time 12-18 credit hours.  Another university is $2496 for 12-18 credit hours.  The third was $2305 per full-time semester.

 

 

 

These are very inexpensive, under $8K per year compared to the $38K per year mentioned originally.

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Cost depends on the school.

 

I just looked up three of the local schools (we have 12 nationally-accredited universities within a one hour drive).

 

The cheapest is a community college that also offers several BS degrees, at $1671 per semester for full time 12-18 credit hours.  Another university is $2496 for 12-18 credit hours.  The third was $2305 per full-time semester.

 

 

 

These are very inexpensive, under $8K per year compared to the $38K per year mentioned originally.

What *programs* were the costs quoted for ? Are they for subsidized students ? Is that the price after scholarship ?

 I have never seen computer science / electrical engineering that cheap.

 

 I stated $24,000 for tuition, and $14,000 for "cost of living" for the area the school was located in - as far as Penn State  ( your IP look up should have nailed me as being in Ohio ), they require 2 years undergraduate study THAN 4 years normal course work @ $31,000 per year tuition ( got to pay off those lawsuits some how ) . LINK


 

 

@Promit - how can I afford $10,000 a year, when I grossed $21,800 last year, and this year doesn't look any better ?

As I stated before, I am ineligible for student loans - I already tried MANY places. ( My credit rating is about as good as you expect for some one with many outstanding medical bills )

  Edited by Shippou
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Cost depends on the school.
 
I just looked up three of the local schools .... The cheapest is a community college that also offers several BS degrees, at $1671 per semester for full time 12-18 credit hours.  Another university is $2496 for 12-18 credit hours.  The third was $2305 per full-time semester.

What *programs* were the costs quoted for ? Are they for subsidized students ? Is that the price after scholarship ?
 I have never seen computer science / electrical engineering that cheap.
 
 I stated $24,000 for tuition, and $14,000 for "cost of living" for the area the school was located in - as far as Penn State  ( your IP look up should have nailed me as being in Ohio ), they require 2 years undergraduate study THAN 4 years normal course work @ $31,000 per year tuition ( got to pay off those lawsuits some how )

 

 
I was referring to my area, Salt Lake City.
 
Salt Lake Community College - $1671 for full time (they only offer up to associates degree in computer science).
University of Utah - $2706 for 12 credit hours
Utah State University - $3092 for full time
Weber State University - $2495 for full time
Utah Valley University - $2543 for full time
 
There are other local schools, all with similar rates for in-state or resident tuition.

 

 

As for getting a job, the Salt Lake area is one of the best nationally for unemployment, we didn't get hit hard by the recession. Google says we are at 4.1% unemployment, and there are many tech jobs open all over the place. Cost of living is relatively low, and if you plan your move carefully you can move to Provo so you can get Google Fiber or other suburbs that offer fiber-to-the-home.  As a college student in the '90s I was able to find a $50K/year programming job.  It was hard to work full time while also attending school, but it something that can be done.

 

 

Just because a few states have very high tuition and poor job prospects does not mean it is the same across the country.  Consider moving.

Edited by frob
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I stated $24,000 for tuition, and $14,000 for "cost of living" for the area the school was located in - as far as Penn State  ( your IP look up should have nailed me as being in Ohio ), they require 2 years undergraduate study THAN 4 years normal course work @ $31,000 per year tuition ( got to pay off those lawsuits some how ) . LINK

 

Your link refers to the graduate school... have you looked at the official Penn State website?

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Consider that tuition payments are also a total tax write-off.

 

Yes and no -- tuition *interest* I believe is a write off, but not the principle. And depending on what you earn after you graduate, high-earners may not qualify for the write-off. The rules may be different between private and government-subsidized loan types. I'm unable to write off any of my interest because I earn too much and file single. If I were married to someone who is not also a "high earner" by IRS standards, or had a boatload of kids, I'd probably be able to write it off though. ...I know, I know, first world problems.

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Alternatively, go back in time, do really well in high school, and then go to any school for free! (or nearly free).  biggrin.png

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Consider that tuition payments are also a total tax write-off.

 

Yes and no -- tuition *interest* I believe is a write off, but not the principle. And depending on what you earn after you graduate, high-earners may not qualify for the write-off. The rules may be different between private and government-subsidized loan types. I'm unable to write off any of my interest because I earn too much and file single. If I were married to someone who is not also a "high earner" by IRS standards, or had a boatload of kids, I'd probably be able to write it off though. ...I know, I know, first world problems.

 

That is for tuition loan payments. I'm referring to direct out of pocket payments to the school at time of billing. And yes, that creates a significant tax advantage for those who can afford to pay tuition direct.

Edited by Promit
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Consider that tuition payments are also a total tax write-off.

 

Yes and no -- tuition *interest* I believe is a write off, but not the principle. And depending on what you earn after you graduate, high-earners may not qualify for the write-off. The rules may be different between private and government-subsidized loan types. I'm unable to write off any of my interest because I earn too much and file single. If I were married to someone who is not also a "high earner" by IRS standards, or had a boatload of kids, I'd probably be able to write it off though. ...I know, I know, first world problems.

 

That is for tuition loan payments. I'm referring to direct out of pocket payments to the school at time of billing. And yes, that creates a significant tax advantage for those who can afford to pay tuition direct.

 

 

It is called the Lifetime Learning tax credit.  It applies to everybody not just those who pay out-of-pocket.  It is a non-refundable tax credit that maxes out at $2000 over the taxpayer's lifetime.

 

That is in addition to the deduction you can take against any student loan interest.

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I was referring to my area, Salt Lake City.

 
Salt Lake Community College - $1671 for full time (they only offer up to associates degree in computer science).
University of Utah - $2706 for 12 credit hours
Utah State University - $3092 for full time
Weber State University - $2495 for full time
Utah Valley University - $2543 for full time
 
There are other local schools, all with similar rates for in-state or resident tuition.

 

 

As for getting a job, the Salt Lake area is one of the best nationally for unemployment, we didn't get hit hard by the recession. Google says we are at 4.1% unemployment, and there are many tech jobs open all over the place. Cost of living is relatively low, and if you plan your move carefully you can move to Provo so you can get Google Fiber or other suburbs that offer fiber-to-the-home.  As a college student in the '90s I was able to find a $50K/year programming job.  It was hard to work full time while also attending school, but it something that can be done.

 

The only problem is it's Utah! Kidding aside, there are a lot of opportunities in smaller urban areas. There are great developer communities in places like Phoenix, Denver, Austin, and Salt Lake City. To be fair, there are a lot of developer opportunities pretty much everywhere right now, and the tech industry unemployment rate is significantly lower than the general unemployment rate.

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We don't do that anymore because we spend all our time training children to pass the standardized tests -- hence, everyone needs to go on to some form of higher education, even if they only want to pursue a trade -- if you don't, you get a service-industry McJob, or no job at all.

 

Ehhh even people with university degrees are working in the service sector now? A university degree is sadly no longer a guarantee for getting a good job with a high salary. Even in Europe this is the case. We have people with engineer degrees working as dish washers and cab drivers now at days. I can even speak from experience when I say that I have met people with ph.d titles working in restaurants.

 

University degrees are now just a high school diploma and what firms want are that and special skills. All the statistics in the world won't change the fact that many people sits back with high student loans and no jobs or low paid jobs after graduation. That is real live in these times.

 

So why are higher education so expensive? Well it should not be that expensive as many will not benefit from their degrees in these times.

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Maybe you should consider an option of studying abroad. MF faculty at Carl's University in Prague is too heavy to get through, but there are plenty of others, in czech, germany or slovakia, and I am sure some of them would have english applied, though it tends to be rare on technology faculties unluckily. 

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Alternatively, go back in time, do really well in high school, and then go to any school for free! (or nearly free).  biggrin.png

All I have to do is go back in time to 1994, and kick my 9th grade self in the @$$ .

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Penn State is a public university, not a community college. As was mentioned once earlier in the thread, it's not uncommon for people to get the first 2 years of general studies credits out of the way at a community college, which is typically drastically cheaper than a university. You just want to make sure that your credits will transfer to the university that you intend to go to. Communicating your intent to both the administration at the community college and your desired university will help in making sure that is as painless a process as possible.
 
 
 

Alternatively, go back in time, do really well in high school, and then go to any school for free! (or nearly free). biggrin.png

All I have to do is go back in time to 1994, and kick my 9th grade self in the @$$ .

 
Man, if you could only time travel once and it was for only long enough to give yourself a kick in the pants... we would accomplish some great things! Edited by j-locke
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Man, if you could only time travel once and it was for only long enough to give yourself a kick in the pants... we would accomplish some great things!

 

Or not -- I'd probably just go back in time and tell myself to mine bitcoins, then take preemptive retirement biggrin.png

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Man, if you could only time travel once and it was for only long enough to give yourself a kick in the pants... we would accomplish some great things!

 
Or not -- I'd probably just go back in time and tell myself to mine bitcoins, then take preemptive retirement biggrin.png


Ah, somebody is always gonna game the system aren't they? Haha. Mine bitcoins, invest in Google, Apple, or virtually any .com and sell out at the right time.
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 I stated $24,000 for tuition, and $14,000 for "cost of living" for the area the school was located in - as far as Penn State  ( your IP look up should have nailed me as being in Ohio ), they require 2 years undergraduate study THAN 4 years normal course work @ $31,000 per year tuition ( got to pay off those lawsuits some how ) . LINK

 

A full college education at a university today is about $100,000. The people saying it's not that expensive!!!! are in-state residents that are getting 2/3rd of their education paid for by the government. If you attend a private university, are an out-of-state resident, or a foreign national then you pay full price.

 

Do you have any college credit within that last 7 years? (After a while it stops counting and you have to start over.)

Or do you have an associates degree?
Then you can skip the first two years at the university; you have to take placement test, ace them, and have your transcript sent to the university.

 

So ... your first goal is become a state resident. I believe you have to live in the state for 2 years if you are a US citizen.

If you're not a citizen then you become a citizen first, then a state resident.

 

Once you are a state resident then you can attend a public university.

Here are the cheap public schools in Pennsylvania: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_colleges_and_universities_in_Pennsylvania#Pennsylvania_State_System_of_Higher_Education:_State-owned_Master.27s_level_institutions

 

Bloomsburg is $3,311 per semester.

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Ah, somebody is always gonna game the system aren't they? Haha. Mine bitcoins, invest in Google, Apple, or virtually any .com and sell out at the right time.

 

 

It's been done before.

 

Didn't work out so well.

 

9vWzEWu.png

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I can sympathize with you. I jut got accepted into graduate school, and the nightmare of scheduling and paying for everything has started all over again for me. You've got lots of good replies already, but I'll add a few points/emphases:

 

-Be very careful about which schools you're looking at. A lot of traditional 4 year schools, public and private, run mostly on young kids getting federally backed loans which can't be discharged through bankruptcy. That, among other things, edges the tuition higher. If large loans aren't an option for you, then these schools' entire pricing scheme will be off-kilter for you, and they may not have a lot of motivation to help you out unless you're willing to pay the sticker price.

 

That said, tuition costs vary radically from school to school, and program to program within the school (especially if you aren't going to be living on campus in student housing). Make sure you are looking at schools with respectable degree programs in the field of your interest, and then comparison shop. Look at more than just upfront tuition. You'll also likely want things such as job placement rates for graduates, research opportunities, and other things which are poorly captured by tuition listings. The worst thing you can do is to look only at schools that happen to be near where you already live (excepting public universities, which often offer in-state tuition deals to residents).

 

Also be on the lookout for schools that "bloat" their graduation standards with lots of general education requirements. If you only need 60 computer science credits for a comp sci degree, but your school requires you to take an additional 80 credits in non-comp sci classes you'll end up burning money and time on stuff you don't care about at that school. Unrelated classes can be great and mind-broadening, but it's also quite a luxury at modern prices.

 

-Check how the tuition is calculated. Some places have weird pricing schemes, but the most common display (from my own experience) is of the tuition rate for a student taking a full course load each semester. Sometimes other costs, like student housing are included, but this runs the other way as well. Often, things like lab fees aren't made clear until you've already signed up for a course unless you make a special effort to ask about them.

 

-Ask about scholarships and other assistance. You don't always have to rely on loans from banks to finance your education. Many schools, especially private schools, have great tuition assistance programs that are only discussed with applicants who ask about available assistance. This includes work-study programs, too.

 

-Get away from the "typical timeline". Most bachelor's-degree programs are designed for four-year courses of full-time study (even though at a lot of schools average graduation times are closer to 5 or 6 years of schooling). That may not work for you because of cost, time, or any number of other reasons. But there's no particular reason that you can't plan on a 6 year graduation schedule, taking a lighter (and therefore cheaper) course load while allowing yourself time to work so that you can pay for it. It can also pay off in making sure that you have enough time to dedicate to your studies. With a bachelor's degree, your GPA might matter a lot, and your independent work (usually internships and shared authorships at the undergrad level) is crucially important.

 

-Ask about transferring credits. You've mentioned that you have several certifications. Some of these might be accepted for credit (sometimes only half credit, but every bit helps) at the schools you are looking at. When this is the case, it automatically saves you money on tuition and time on earning the degree. You should watch out for schools that accept certifications as "pass only" credit (you get credit for the course, but your transcript marks you down as having a non-letter passing grade), not because that's a huge issue, but because you don't want to be surprised by it later if it doesn't suit your plans.

 

-Finally, consider moving outside the US for school. The US is uncommonly expensive for post-secondary education by a wide margin, but aside from the mega-reputation schools (Harvard, Yale, etc.) the schools aren't any "better" (in terms of education received or name-brand-cachet) than many schools in other countries. You can save big over US schools just by driving to Canada or a nice South American school. Getting a student visa might be irritating, but I doubt it would be worse than asking banks for loans.

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You can save big over US schools just by driving to Canada

 

Your mileage may vary by institution, however, as international students once again pay full price - There might not be much of a difference between going to an out-of-state US school, and a Canadian one. It can run around 20k for a year of Undergrad, plus purchasing mandatory health insurance, and part of your visa process will be proving you have the money for living expenses.

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