U.S. tuition must match degrees’ true worth

by Marina Kracht

How families pay for college Priced out of collegeA college education is by far the most valuable gift you can receive from your parents or the best investment you might make if you are borrowing student loans. A degree provides you with an edge, although a bachelor’s degree might not be enough because of how competitive the labor market is.

Growing up in France, I always heard that the U.S.’ higher education is expensive, but I never expected the cost to be this high. I almost fell off my chair when I found out how much private and even state universities cost. My home university, Universidad Antonio de Nebrija, is private but costs almost the same as San Diego State. If you knew how much Europeans pay for college, you’d fall down from shock. In Europe, tuition for a public university is approximately $1,300 per year. For a private university, students pay around $8,000. Some countries, such as Greece and Argentina, don’t charge for college tuition at all.

College should be affordable because it gives graduates a lifelong tool to succeed in their professional careers. I was flabbergasted when I found out one of my American roommates needs to repay $20,000 in student loans when she gets her first job. With an increase in academic inflation, degrees tend to lose their value as more students graduate, leading some to seek master’s degrees to distinguish themselves. And the longer students stay in school, the longer it takes for them to buy a house or build a good credit history. It’s difficult to do that when you owe more than $20,000 in student loans. The sooner they can repay student loans, the faster they can start saving for a house and maybe even for retirement.

College degrees shouldn’t be as expensive as they are in the U.S., especially from state universities. By making tuition too expensive, students accumulate long-term debts and can’t behave as regular consumers because their No.1 priority is to repay their debt, not to spend money on consumer goods.

A consequence of expensive tuition is “brain drain” as the U.S. looses some intelligent citizens to more affordable universities in other countries. Some people think education should be free of charge and everybody should be entitled to a college degree. I agree with the second statement, but not with the first.

If there is too much supply—in this case too many students with degrees—it lowers the value of actually having a bachelor’s degree and students must seek new ways to increase their worth in the job market. The question is: How can a U.S. student put a reasonable price on education during a time when a graduate is supposed to have the same amount of knowledge no matter where in the world they got their degree? It’s as if high U.S. tuition fees created an intentional barrier, a filtration system to only attract the students who are truly motivated to study and are willing to show this by accepting high interests on student loans.

Student debt because of loans shouldn’t be the sword of Damocles on a student’s head because it’s a long-term financial burden and is bad for the economy of a country. The U.S. should follow Europe’s example about college affordability.