Editor's Corner: Taking on college tuition

My thoughts turn to those Sequim students earning their diplomas in coming days and weeks, whether it be here in Sequim or Peninsula College in Port Angeles or at some other institution of higher knowledge across the country.

My predominant thought: thank goodness I’m not in your shoes. Don’t get me wrong, there’s part of me that would love to relive some of my college years … but thankfully I can’t and won’t. I simply wouldn’t be able to afford it.

A recent story from the Associated Press noted that because tuition and fees at colleges and universities have been rising faster than inflation by 3 to 4 percentage points since the late 1970s, students at the University of Washington and other institutions are demanding relief. Tuition at four-year public colleges and universities in Washington state increased by about 60.7 percent (or $4,085) in inflation-adjusted dollars between 2008 and 2014, according to a recent report by Washington, D.C.’s Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Only five other states saw larger increases in that time.

The study goes on to indicate Americans owe more in college loans — about $30,000 per student — than any personal debt except mortgages, with monthly payments sometimes exceeding rent.

Some estimates have the nation’s student debt at $1.2 trillion. For you non-math majors (sheepishly raises hand), that’s, well, more money than any of us will ever make. Except Warren Buffet.

Not to worry, of course. Politicians are on the job. Last week, a Senate Budget Committee hearing chaired by Sen. Patty Murray announced it is taking on the issue. “A college degree shouldn’t drown borrowers in debt,” Murray said.

But Richard Vedder, director of a Washington, D.C., research group, said lowering borrowing costs does nothing to address the problem’s root cause — runaway college cost inflation.

Are you feeling it yet, grads? It’s no wonder they call college the “Ivory Tower” … considering the cost of ivory.

Ironically (or perhaps not), at the same time tuition is rising the job market is on the rebound. The Department of Labor’s latest jobs report shows the U.S. economy added 217,000 jobs in May. With that job growth, there are more jobs in the country than ever before. In essence, as CNNMoney’s Annalyn Kurtz noted, it took two years to wipe out 8.7 million American jobs but more than four years to gain them all back.

Still, that’s good news, right? I mean, as long as legislators are on the job, you fledgling college students/career seekers are going to be fine, right? I wouldn’t bet on it. Don’t ignore all the great advice you’re going to get in the coming weeks and months, because they are generally coming from people who know you and want the best for you. Take heed when they talk about being wise with your money.

And keep things in perspective, too. Facing the rather ominous end of an economic depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had this to say in his First Inaugural Address on March 4, 1933: “Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.”


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