By the time they complete their education the average college student will be around $24,000 in debt, reports the Huffington Post, and judging from unemployment statistics they will have little chance of paying it off in the near future.
Despite these staggering statistics, colleges all across the country are seeing their enrollment numbers skyrocket, and Southern Oregon University is no exception. Although official figures won’t be available until the fourth week of the term, Fall enrollment this year is expected to be the school’s highest ever.
In spite of potentially record-breaking enrollment numbers, SOU has once again raised tuition rates, with in-state undergraduate tuition up by 6.8 percent over last year, or approximately $8 per credit hour.
“Our state funds have actually been cut 27 percent in the last 3 years,” said Jon Eldridge, Vice President of Student Affairs, via email. “Tuition has been raised only 15 percent in the same time. All of our staff took pay cuts via furlough days over the past two years and furlough days remain for administrators and classified staff in this 2-year cycle.”
Eldridge explained that the increase in tuition allowed the university to go back to full-length terms, instead of the 9-week terms instituted last year due to furlough days, as well as provide enough courses to meet demand and keep all student services.
Eldridge said that students had been consulted before the decision was made, and that any future tuition increases would go through the newly formed Tuition Committee. Half of the sitting members on the committee are students.
“It’s inevitable that tuition is going to go up,” said Jazmin Roque, a sophomore Theatre major who estimates she will be between $10,000 and $15,000 in debt by the time she graduates. “That’s the joke; as students, we’re graduating with mortgage-sized loans and no houses.”
“The demographics of students here, a lot of returning and first-generation students go to Southern, and the increase is going to impact them,” she said. “Everybody took a hit in this, but it was spread out enough that nobody got it really bad.”
“Strategically I think it was the right choice to make,” she added.
Emery Way graduated from SOU last Spring with a Bachelors in History, and is currently about $20,000 in debt.
“I think History degrees are perfect examples of what’s going on with degrees,” he said. “A Bachelors in History is basically worth the same as a high school diploma. Basically the only way out is to get my Masters and eventually get a teaching job or something.”
Way explained that because student loan repayment is deferred until you graduate, many students don’t understand just how much money they’re borrowing until it’s too late.
“Because it’s a loan-based system we have here, you won’t see the fallout until later,” he said. “It’s just dumping more debt on students.”