As someone who is currently experiencing the financial pitfalls of college debt, I can easily understand the anxiety that many students face as a result of that debt. One of the biggest points of contention during the presidential race this year involved financial aid for college students and the increasing amount of debt that college students graduate with. While Maine is only $1,200 above the national average of $27,000 of undergraduate debt at graduation, it doesn’t negate the fact that the national average is alarmingly high.

One of the best ways to combat the rising cost of college is to apply early for financial aid. If a student applies for financial aid much earlier in the semester, chances are that he or she will be awarded more financial aid as a result. The well, so to speak, dries up with each passing day that you don’t apply for financial aid because that money is going to other students. So, when your adviser or parent tells you to apply early, you should probably listen. It may not seem like a big hairy deal while you’re in college, because you haven’t actually started paying off your loans yet, but it rapidly gets expensive once you graduate. A few thousand dollars that you don’t need to borrow will be helpful in the months between graduating and finding a job.

There is one thing to potentially look forward to, though. The U.S. Department of Education has proposed a “Pay As You Earn” plan, which would allow some federal borrowers to make loan payments based on their postgraduate income. Hopefully, this is one of the promises that Obama keeps, because it would drastically change the way we individually make loan payments. The current payment system is one size fits all, and the new one would be tailor-made.

Attending college has always been a part of the dreams of students, but in a troubled economy, the college aspirations of many people are coming to a harsh stop. Education should never have to be an unattainable goal, but the current price of college is just too high. It’s time we re-think the definition of “affordable” in terms of tuition.


  1. I agree that it is a tragedy how much harder it is for young people to afford college these days.  But I think it is worth noting that it is a common misconception that this is because the price of a college education has shot up faster than other expense, the numbers say something far worse.  The numbers don’t point to college tuition itself being a bigger portion of the total pie of a person’s major expenses.  Instead people have much smaller pies to divide up for their expenses. The saying you hear commonly is that most people could get a 4-year state University education for the average price of a new car in 1980.  Well if you look up the numbers you find that you could actually get a college education for 91% of the price of the average new car in 1980.  But here’s the crazy thing, if you use the same numbers for 2011, you find out that the cost is 89% of the price of new car.  Of course, the price of cars has shot up, the price of homes has shot up, the price of fuel has shot up, the price of food has shot up, the price of health care has shot up, and the price of state university costs have nearly kept pace. That they have only kept pace is surprising given that state governments have been giving less and less to universities, forcing them to raise tuition to make up the difference. When people had a bigger financial pie to work with they didn’t need to take out loans, but those smaller pies mean that more people now need loans and those loans are the killers when it comes to college debt.
     I don’t like the outlook. The best prospect is people having bigger financial pies to work with, but the across the board inflation makes that difficult.  We can yell at colleges and universities to cut their costs, but the reality is they are being squeezed by many of the same costs that affect family budgets – things like fuel costs and health care costs.  Also, another real killer in the process is that there are still fewer college student seats nationally than there are people to fill them and the free market means that the expenses at private colleges and universities are now priced way outside the means of all but the wealthy. Look at the tuition at Colby as an example: $55,700 PER YEAR! The end result is that state universities that are now over whelmed with applicants and there isn’t enough financial aid money to go around any longer. Again, this forces more people to seek loans.  Its a tough cycle to break.


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