I don’t know if we will be able to make college less expensive “in the future” but, what I suggest instead is a more cost-conscious consumer-scholar! There are fairly simple options to help families make their college education investment more affordable.
- Dual enrollment opportunities: When high school students have the opportunity to take college credit-bearing courses while still in high school, it does a couple things. The first is it lowers their college tuition bill by the same number of credits they would have to take anyway. For example, if they take, say, English 101 while still in high school, they don’t have to take it at the collegiate level. Most times these offerings are at a deeply discounted rate, and are sometimes subsidized by a high school’s district or school board. The other thing it does is thrusts students directly into credit-bearing courses when they enroll in college since they likely will have taken the placement exam and prerequisites in high school. This saves a great deal of money that would have been spent on courses that are expensive yet aren’t counted towards the degree. Research has shown that students who take remedial/developmental education courses are at a higher risk for dropping out than those who do not, no matter how well they do in them. There are a couple of theories on that that I won’t belabor here. The point is, taking college credit courses while in high school lowers your college tuition bill.
- JuCo: The second thing I suggest students consider is attending community/junior college then transferring to a 4-year undergraduate program. Most two-year colleges are less expensive than four-year schools so it makes sense to complete general education/core courses at “JuCo” then transferring. The most savvy students decide early on which undergraduate program they wish to pursue and research which “JuCos” they have “articulation agreements” with and go there. Often that partnership between the schools has an automatic scholarship funding stream attached to it! And transferring into some academic programs is sometimes an easier, softer admissions process!
- Good Ol’ Elbow Grease: Take advantage of Federal Work Study opportunities during your studies! Not only does it load your resume with rich work experience before you even graduate, you get paid to work on campus! There’s no travel and most departments work around your class schedule. This is key for a student: why spend money to make money? Why stress out about your schedule?! (Think about the stress your peers will experience trying to get “enough” hours at their retail gig AND work around their class schedule AND study!) When you have to exercise strict time management, you’re likely to be more focused all around - this includes good fiscal practices! Over time, those habits save you money.
- Once you’re enrolled as a college student, don’t drop classes just because they’re tough! Put in some extra effort and do the very best you can. How in the world does this relate to the affordability of college? Here’s how: every time you drop a course after you’ve started attending classes, it does two things: (1) it extends the time you need to matriculate to finish your degree and (2) eats away at your financial aid! If you drop/withdraw from a class after, say, the 5th week (of a 14/15 week semester), you’ve taken 25% of the class and you’ll be charged for it. Some institutions have adopted some very strict and costly policies related to this so students should be mindful. It doesn’t seem like a big deal but in this age of “living my best life” we’ve seen an major increase in students jut not attending classes then dropping them mid-semester (after they have received any financial aid, refunds, etc.) and having a balance to meet them before they can even register for the next semester (the famous “Bursar’s Block”).
I understand the question was really about figuring out how to get institutions to adjust their cost scales (lower tuition) and, in fact, tuition rates have flattened over the last few years but, “forcing” over 1500 schools to do anything promises to be less
successful than the collective power a financially savvy consumer group wields! Colleges will
respond to THAT!
Let me know your thoughts!
*Please, pardon any typos; I submitted this response from my iPhone.*