Priceless Education: High school students are stuck with an unsolvable problem


“Where are you going?” As graduation grows near, this looming question lingers above the heads of many high school seniors. Not only is this question often  redundant, it is also loaded. As it floats out of the mouths of grandparents, friends, neighbors, or teachers during cheerful conversation, the increasing expense of college twists the well-intentioned inquiry into a gloomy reality. It’s a reality in which students then begin to ask themselves an altered version of that very same impending dilemma: “Where can I go?”

As the cost of college prices continue to rise astronomically, college itself is becoming less and less accessible to incoming students, especially those who won’t be able to afford it. For many of this year’s graduating seniors, the debt they can accumulate during their years at college can total more than twenty eight thousand dollars per year, according to Forbes Magazine). Student debt is rapidly becoming a source of stress for high school seniors and college students alike. In fact, loan provider Lending Tree found that most students will take anywhere from fifteen to twenty years to pay off their debts.


In the United States, the most recent graduates owe nearly $30,000 on average which, on the most aggressive payment plan of $300 a month, takes ten years to pay off. Overall, Americans’ student loan debt totals more than all outstanding credit card, medical, and personal loans owed, at a concerning $1.8 trillion. Although student debt is a massive financial concern for many, the source of this debt, colleges themselves are doing little, if anything, to resolve the situation. The looming cost of college darkens what should be a bright future for many students, such as J.D. Wax, who plans to attend Purdue University in the fall for social studies education.

“The increasing cost of college is very upsetting and is unfair,” Wax said. “The rate that college tuition has been increasing is disproportionate to the rate that inflation and the average income have been increasing at.”

In fact, the yearly rate of college tuition since 1980 has nearly quadrupled the rate of inflation during the same period of time, so much so that every nine years, the price of college is estimated to double. Many seniors who are planning to go to college are paying the same amount for room and board as their parents paid in total for their entire college costs. Because of the increasing cost of secondary education, students are beginning to compensate by cutting down expenses.

“Some [students] may be exploring taking classes at Ivy Tech [Community College] before transferring to their four-year school, or they are trying to save some money by taking dual credit or AP courses that may offer them college credit for less,” NHS counselor Brook Brookes said.

By taking AP courses and scoring a three or higher on the AP exam, students are able to complete some college graduation requirements, which lowers their overall cost of college. Others choose to commute to local colleges instead of paying for room and board, as they would normally have to do at colleges farther from home. Unfortunately, all this cost-cutting may affect their experience of college itself, which is supposed to be an enjoyable experience according to guidance counselor Craig Spinner.

“There is nothing wrong with staying in state. However, it is the one time in a student’s life when they can experience different cultures and locations,” Spinner said.

However, for some lucky students, another option for education funding is scholarships. But scholarships too are becoming increasingly difficult to come by. This is especially true for Abigail Doke, who plans to go to Ivy Tech to get a bachelor’s in liberal arts.

“With the increasing amount of student debts in post-secondary education, it’s made scholarships become a necessity for most, if not all, students,” Doke said, “which means an increase in competition for them as well.”


The increasing cost of college is growing at an exponential rate, a problem widespread across the nation. The heavy expenses leading to heightened competition for scholarships, the non-stop attempts at saving money, and the overwhelming feeling among students who are supposed to be looking forward to their future can feel exhausting. It is a future with a brightness that seems to be dimming with each and every zero that follows behind the dollar sign on a tuition bill. 

Because of the competitive nature of paying for a secondary education, many students rely on their academic and athletic abilities to acquire scholarships for financial aid.

“If it weren’t for scholarships, I wouldn’t have been able to go to some of my top colleges,” Wax said. 

Along with the money he earned from scholarships, Wax’s family has made a plan for him. Wax created a 529 plan, a state-sponsored investment plan that helps a beneficiary save money for education expenses. Saving accounts such as this can be helpful, but when a student has several siblings who are also pursuing a college education, like senior Chloe Hildebrand, these savings might not provide as much financial support as desired. 

“My parents will be putting two kids into college after me and they already put two kids into college before me,” Hildebrand said, “so cost mattered a lot to us.”

Hildebrand, who will be attending Indiana University Bloomington, has never doubted that she will be going to college. She says that it has always been her goal, since her future career path in environmental science requires a college degree, despite the overwhelming cost. 

“College has never been a ‘maybe’ for me, it’s always been the plan,” Hildebrand said.

Senior Olivia Chingis is also preparing for college. However, she had to alter her plan from her dream university in Illinois to one that was a better fit based on the expense of out-of-state tuition. 

“I knew that the better choice was to stay in-state for financial matters,” Chingis said, “but I knew that I would feel happier if I went to Illinois.”

Like Chingis, many students are sacrificing part of their happiness in order to save money. Chingis feels empathy for her peers who dreamed of attending schools such as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, but can not. 

“I didn’t really have a dream school such as an Ivy League,” Chingis said, “but many students who are capable and get accepted to schools like that are unable to go because they have to worry about money.”

Spinner has witnessed this financial distress diminish the dreams of students throughout his career.  

“I know students who were capable of going to elite schools, such as Stanford, Northwestern, and Ivy Leagues, but cost prohibited that,” Spinner said.

Guidance counselor Sarah Kjeldsen believes that students should be encouraged to explore all post secondary options that might achieve their goals and dreams. As a counselor, she wants to help guide students onto the paths needed to get them where they want to go so that expenses do not overshadow the excitement of college. 

“Thinking about debt and the financial picture is important,” Kjeldsen said. “However, it should be just one piece of the puzzle that feels bright and hopeful and full of possibilities.”

Kjdelson feels that modern culture has fostered a fearful mindset and fosters constant anxiety and worry.  As a counselor, she says this is difficult for her to witness as she helps students prepare for college.  

 “I do not like the idea of students drowning in fear over their future,” Kjeldsen said.

Although Kjeldsen attempts to ease any worry concerning college, just like Doke, that fear is a true issue for several students. 

As the expense of college education continues to increase, the amount of stress and worry among students is on the rise as well. Education at the college level is a requirement for many future careers, however it is difficult to put a price tag on that education if students can not even afford it. In this day and age, perhaps college education has now become priceless. 

“I am anxious about the prospect of holding such massive debt for years of my life, especially with the current economic system becoming more stressed,” Doke said. “It is not looking to be a promising future of schooling without the risk of future financial issues.”