Paying for College: The Lovecraftian Horror, by Garth Ball

As a senior, there’s a question looming in the  back of my conscience incessantly, like a  dark, ominous cloud brewing behind you, a  cloud which knows your deepest, darkest  secrets and has a toothed mouth which is  lined with slimy tentacles, some sort of  Lovecraftian horror which would love  nothing more than to feed off of your still-  living body… the question being, “Why is  college so expensive? And what can I do  about it? Can I do anything about it?”

 Well, to answer those questions in order, I’d  reply, “Lotsa reasons. There’s stuff you can do about it. You CAN do something about it.” But that’s being awfully vague. So here’s my elaboration.

 

Why is college so expensive?

The reasons are complicated, various, and interrelated, so rather than trying to paint a narrative of the history of the economics of college, I’ll provide a quick-and-dirty list.

  • An oftentimes artificial demand has been raised for a college education

  • An increase in government subsidies (like student loans)

  • A decrease in state government spending on education

  • An increase in administrative, non-teaching staff at colleges and universities

  • An increase in the money colleges spend on things like new dorms, dining halls, sports centers, etc.

 

What can I do about it?

 The first step, really, is thinking about it. Far  too many high school seniors go into college  without a clear idea of what they want out of it,  and without thinking about the economic  implications of their decisions. College is often  seen as a reward, as a time to party and have  fun after over twelve years of school. By instilling a healthy dose of reality into your mindset, you can combat this unproductive mentality. Rather than picture college as a time to put life on hold and stop worrying about things, remember that one day those student loans will need to be paid off. It’s a classic question of delayed gratification. Either you can make efforts before and during college to make it less expensive, or you can wait until you’re under the weight of a debt snowball (a truly Lovecraftian horror). Though it’s by no means easy, here are some ways to get started:

  • Get good grades and good standardized test scores in high school. This is easier said than done, obviously, but colleges give generous scholarships for high-achieving students. If you figure the extra time you might spend on getting good grades, and weigh it against the amount of time it would take to earn an amount of money comparable to the scholarships good students are awarded, it becomes obvious that working hard in high school is quite worth it.

  • Take as many AP classes as you can handle. These are the cheapest college credits you will ever earn!

  • Search for scholarships with determination! Though getting a free ride is often simply out of reach, even for overachievers, there are plenty of opportunities to eliminate a thousand or two thousand dollars at a time. Many colleges offer scholarships to artistically talented students in music, theatre, and visual art who are willing to participate in college. There are, of course, sports scholarships, but it’s important to note that most athletes overestimate the attainability of these. Often, a large amount of money can be found from private organizations. Check with any nonprofit organizations you work with, do online searches, check with your parents’ union–there are all kinds of places to find these scholarships. While each one often seems like it’s just a drop in the bucket, when you put them all together, it can lead to a sizable, comforting amount.

  • Work part time before and during college. Again, while the amount of money you make will seem like just a drop in the bucket, it will be enough to offset personal costs. Most students are able to find work somewhere on campus.

  • If you do have to take out loans (and most students do), shop around for the best rates, realizing that after you’re done with college you’re going to have to pay them back. Don’t be terrified of taking out loans, but borrow wisely. Take into consideration how much you’ll realistically be making after you have your degree.

 

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