BY ANNABEL MONAGHAN
Gaining a college or university degree is becoming stupidly unaffordable.
The cost of university accommodation alone – be it on campus or off campus – can be incredibly daunting to the first-time home leaver.
According to one research study, which compared the cost of on-campus housing across a number of different colleges and universities, McGill University (Quebec) had the most expensive on-campus housing, averaging out at $1,885 per month. It was followed closely by the University of Toronto at $1,807, Queens’ University at $1,654, and Trinity College at $1,588. These costs sit higher than the average cost of renting a private home in some of the world’s most coveted destinations, including Bondi Beach, Australia, and downtown New York, Unites States.
These excessive costs are perhaps why universities have increasingly come to play a part in the housing business. From 1976 to 2013, it seems the inflation-adjusted rate of increase in college-provided housing prices was about 72 percent, compared with less than five percent for housing in the broader community. It has been said that such massive increases in price suggest universities are monopolising on their power to be able to influence nervous, timid, high school graduates to take up university-provided accommodation, extorting high room rates wherever possible. Usually, students are inclined to believe admissions teams that insist the best accommodation option is that provided by the university, and – faced by a daunting number of new and unexplored prospects – newcomers to university usually attempt to seek out no other option.
Campus board rates have equally risen in terrifying ways – in many campuses, more than the cost of food in restaurants or grocery stores has risen, in fact.
But of course it’s the actual cost of instruction that sends real shivers down the spine of a wannabe graduate.
In the United States, where the cost of higher education is not born by government but instead is privately borne by students and educational institutions, college tuition fees have increased as the value, quality, and quantity of education options has increased – on a growth trajectory that has become increasingly controversial. This controversy mostly stems from the sad reality that higher education investments are severely tax disadvantaged compared to other investments, but despite this state support for public colleges and universities has fallen by a whopping 26 percent since the 1990s. The resultant privatization of higher education is placing huge amounts of pressure on private institutions to survive and continue offering the same high levels of quality instruction to students, with minimal external support from government.
As an example, to undertake two semesters at the University of Vermont as an undergraduate in 2018, the on-campus cost for a Vermont local would be US$33,804, while the same would cost an out-of-state resident US$58,450. Multiply that amount by roughly four and you have the total amount you would be in debt as a college graduate, without factoring in your socialising, gym membership, transport, health insurance (e.g. iSelect) and meals outside of college. No wonder the prospect is terrifying to some.
But there are ways to prepare for the incoming onslaught of bills you will be faced with as a university student, here are just a few:
- When drawing up a list of potential Universities or colleges, to apply to choose a public university as your number one choice. Generally, these are the most affordable options.
- Opt to live off campus: generally, the cost of living off campus, and cooking one’s own meals, is much cheaper than living on campus and paying for university provided meal plans. If you want to embrace the best university life has to offer, why not spend first year living on campus and move out for your second year? This way you will get the best of both worlds.
- Seek out financial aid packages and scholarships – right the way through university: It is well worth exploring the different types of aid, tuition assistance, grants, scholarships and payment options available to help finance students’ higher education. And don’t stop searching once you have begun studying, scholarships and grants are available for students right throughout their college years. Never give up trying if you believe you may be eligible. The biggest single source of aid in the United States is the federal government —in the form of college loans ($68 billion worth in 2013)
- Cut down on textbook costs: do this by buying second- hand at campus bookstores and garage sales, renting textbooks for a semester, downloading e-books and selling used textbooks once finished with them.
- Find and use student discounts wherever possible: Apple, Amazon Student, StudentRate and STA Travel are just some companies offering amazing deals to those students still attending university.
- Avoid private loans wherever possible.
- If desperate, consider attending community college: some states in the US even cover these classes free.
- Opt to attend University in-state (if in the United States): choosing to state just one state over can add a monumental amount to total cost of gaining a degree. If possible, remain in-state to be eligible for cheaper tuition fees.
- Embrace life hacks to cut your monthly expenses.
- Give up alcohol: just think how much money could be saved by simply dropping this one behaviour.
Annabel Monaghan is a writer with a passion for education and edtech. She writes education and career articles for The College Puzzle with the aim of providing useful information for students and young professionals. If you have any questions, please feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.