In this blog, we’ll talk about the elephant in the room when it comes to the cost of college. College costs a lot more money than people realize, and some people even end up dropping out due to finances, even when they never thought that would happen. So let’s talk about some of the unknown ways that college costs money.
Some of the more obvious “hidden costs” of college can include books and fees, unknown healthcare expenses, and the cost of travel and flights. Not to mention the cost of an apartment in NYC while you’re working at your prestigious, unpaid internship. However, instead of talking about those types of fees, let’s talk about how college is a huge financial decision that students and parents really need to make together. It’s so important to be academically prepared to survive, get through college, and graduate.
Many Students Take Longer Than 4 Years to Graduate
College is way more expensive than most families realize because the majority of students in the US do not graduate in 4 years. The official four-year graduation rate for students attending public colleges and universities is just 33.3%. The six-year rate is 57.6%. At private colleges and universities, the four-year graduation rate is 52.8%, and the six-year rate is 65.4%. So essentially, you have a 50-50 chance of getting out of college in 4 years.
When colleges come and advertise to you, you are sold a sticker price for 4 years. If they’re nice they may even include a projected rise in tuition and fees in that number. So you think you’re getting out in 4 years, and you know the cost of attendance for 4 years. But half of students will take longer, and that price tag will get higher.
So why do people take longer? You may not know your major, or change majors while you’re at school. As a result, it may take longer to take the required courses and prerequisites you need to graduate. You could also get a D in a required course and need to retake it to graduate. On the flip side, maybe you take a gap year and go to Costa Rica. So now your parents are paying for travel, your health insurance, and the costs for your program or study abroad opportunity. So even if you are working and doing something engaging, it’s not helping you get closer to graduation.
Students Might Not Graduate But Still Have College Loans
Given the statistics above, you can see you 37% or even more of students will not graduate within 6 years. But all of these students still have to repay loans, and doing so without a Bachelor’s degree is a lot harder than with one. It can be crippling when you’ve taken on these loans and you are not able to pay them back.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the average starting salary for the college Class of 2020 was $55,260. If you have some college with no degree, the average salary is between $30-40,000. So, if you haven’t graduated, college just became a huge bundle of loans you have to pay, and you might not have the salary to do it.
If Your Academics Slip, You Can Lose Merit or Financial Aid
Financial aid packages come with strings attached, and that string is usually a required level of academic performance. That rug can be pulled out under you if you don’t maintain your GPA. If you don’t keep that GPA up, then college may suddenly become very expensive, even if you’re not kicked out of school. With increased costs and tuition, you may need to take private loans.
Transfer Students Are Offered Less Financial Aid
One way students try to save on tuition is by going to community college for their first two years, and then transferring to a 4-year institution. This does cut down on costs for your first two years, and you will save money in general. However, the 40% of community college students who plan on transferring after 2 years may be surprised when they see that colleges typically give less aid to students who transfer. Because US News & World College Reports are based on incoming freshmen, there’s less payoff when it comes to transfer students. Transfer students’ statistics won’t help college rankings. Because of this, colleges are less interested in giving transfer students more financial aid. Transfer students will have to pay the full price more often than freshmen.
Additionally, as upperclassmen, transfer students may end up needing to stay at a 4-year institution longer. If they decide they need to change their major, they have less wiggle room to do so. This doesn’t mean it is a bad idea to go to community college first. Nor does it mean it’s a bad idea to transfer from one 4-year university to another. Sometimes, transferring is the best move for you. But in any case, transfer students often end up paying more for their education than the average cost of an incoming freshman.
At the end of the day, it’s most important to graduate in a way that’s fast and efficient, because that’s what will save you money. It may not be as easy as high school. You may also be at a disadvantage in a test optional world. Polishing up English grammar skills and math skills from taking the SAT or ACT could help your performance in college classes down the line. We encourage you to try studying for the test to help with your academic preparedness.
If you work hard now it will pay off later. And if you get into college and feel over your head, reach out and get help. Address it as soon as you can and don’t ignore the problem. You got this!