College is expensive. Like… Really expensive.

For many students across the country as well as many students within DSHS, the determining factor as to whether they will attend their dream school or not isn’t whether they actually got in, but whether or not they can afford it.

According to the Federal Reserve, the average amount of student debt per graduate in the Class of 2016 was $37,172. For seniors graduating high school and preparing to take their first baby steps into the world, that’s a large burden to shoulder.

Out of 134 surveyed DSHS students, over 99% plan on attending a four year university or community college in the coming years, so the question then becomes: How do us seniors (myself included) intend on paying for college?

According to my survey, the majority (47%) of Dripping Springs High School seniors who are planning on attending college this fall will have parental support be the primary factor in the costs of their education. At the next interval, 13% of seniors are paying their way primarily independently. Academic and Athletic scholarships clocked in at 8.7% and 6.9%, respectively, and another handful of students (11%) stated that Federal Loans would be their primary method of paying for school.

All that being said, the statistics above are just our primary methods of payment. Many of these students will be paying for school with a mixture of parental support, academic or athletic money, jobs on the side and grants and loans where they qualify.

Most students, including myself, have to get very creative and work very hard to try to find money in every nook and cranny to get themselves as close to debt free as humanly possible.

In the survey I took, I asked students what they anticipated taking out on student loans over the next four years. From what I’ve calculated, DSHS seniors, collectively, are doing slightly better in paying for school than the rest of the country, with our average loans (from those surveyed) coming out to $31,008.

Hooray?

It’s a tough sell to get excited about… I know. Woohoo! Debt!

The optimist in me hoped that us Tigers here at Dripping Springs could somehow find a way to be the outliers, and collectively ease our bank accounts through college without contemplating the sale of a kidney.

But unfortunately, that just isn’t realistic. Debt is a part of the world, that is for sure, but since when did it become such a massive part of our adult lives before our adult lives even begin?

The average cost of one year in college in 1980 was $3,400. In 2016, the average was over $23,000. And that is just the average.

For someone like me who is planning on studying film and writing, it is far higher as well. It isn’t unusual for liberal arts schools nowadays to have their costs run well over $50,000, with Columbia’s cost of tuition this year being slightly below $75,000!

So it begs the question: Why is this happening?

Many believe the problem lies with the government. When the government began increasing its student aid, schools saw that students had more money to spend.

Even though this money wasn’t technically the students and really belonged to the government, it makes no difference to the school, and with so much federal money allowing for the demand for a college education to increase, colleges were/are able to raise their prices.

Still, though, these supply and demand factors don’t explain why College tuition rates have been and continue to rise at rates well over the inflation rate. You might expect to see that colleges are able to increase costs slightly due to more federal aid becoming available, but the gross increase in tuition costs still feels to many students unaccounted for.

In an example given by author Gordon Wadsworth:

“…if the cost of college tuition was $10,000 in 1986, it would now cost the same student over $21,500 if education had increased as much as the average inflation rate but instead education is $59,800 or over 2 ½ times the inflation rate.”

Where is the cost increase coming from? I don’t have the answers. Just know, seniors, these next four years are going to be a grind.

Written By Jaxson Power-Thornton