An invaluable opportunity: Americans continue to pursue higher education despite mounting debt

Opinion

With tuition rising almost every year and additional costs piling up, students are leaving with more debt than ever before. Is the cost of a college education worth its perceived value?

The Cost

According to collegeboard.org, tuition prices at private four-year colleges rose 13 percent between 2011 and 2012. During the 2014-2015 academic year tuition at Capital was listed at $31,990. Today, the tuition for a full-time student at Capital is $34,280. While tuition has increased over time, the average net price has actually decreased.

Average net price is generated by subtracting the average amount of federal, state/local government, or institutional grant or scholarship aid from the total cost of attendance. Total cost of attendance is the sum of published tuition and required fees, books and supplies, and the weighted average for room and board and other expenses.

The U.S. Department of Education reports that the average net price at Capital is $21,585. This places Capital above the national average of $16,127. However, over the past four years, Capital’s average net price has steadily decreased from the 2013-2014 price of $22,044. Various factors such as family income, student status, and federal aid available play a role in determining the net price for students.

Compared to similar-sized universities, Capital is among the lowest when it comes to average net price. Otterbein University hosts a $25,542 average net price, and Ohio Wesleyan’s is $27,823.

Value

A college education is an investment, but what can students expect to receive from that investment? The first thing that comes to mind is usually debt.

For undergraduate borrowers who complete college, the typical total debt accumulated is $27,000 with a $277 monthly payment. Over 70 percent of students receive federal loans, meaning the average student is graduating with some amount of debt. Thankfully, a degree from Capital brings a lot more than loan debt.

Statistically, Capital graduates are finding above-average success after graduation. The U.S. Department of Education’s Scorecard shows that 69 percent of Capital grads are earning above a high school grad, or more than $25,000. After attending Capital, the average student is earning $41,100 a year. This is greater than the national average of $33,500.

The Verdict

Tuition rates are on a steady incline, and they don’t appear to be coming down anytime soon. With textbooks, room and board, meal plans, and technology fees, college is seeming less and less affordable. However, the value of a college degree still surmounts its actual cost. Individuals with college degrees are still earning more than those without. Experts say that by 2020, two-thirds of all jobs will require a postsecondary education, and college graduates are likely to earn a lot more and experience lower unemployment than those with only a high school diploma.

A college education continues to provide the most valuable asset to graduates: opportunity.

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