Inflated Tuition Prices Sparks Conversation Amongst Woodgrove Community


Buress Hall at Virginia Tech University. Photo by Grace Robinson

In today’s competitive workforce, a college education is seen as the key that opens the door for most professions. With the cost for a four-year bachelor’s degree constantly on the rise and students facing pressure to compete for admission, applying for college can be a daunting task.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been a 150% jump in the price of college tuition when compared to the year 2000. In addition to the rise in price, the college application process has transformed from the days of catalogs, magazines, and paper applications to the modern, technology based methods of today, including online application, college profile accounts, and online networking with other students.

Student loan debt has become the second highest consumer debt category, according to Forbes, behind only mortgage debt, with more than 44 million student borrowers in total. The average debt owed by students from the class of 2016 was $37,172, with in-state students in the state of Virginia owing an slightly lower average of $30,000, according to the Washington Post. Some of the most affordable Virginia institutions such as VCU still gift over $29,000 in fees, a slim dip in price when compared to the state average, despite being known as one of the “affordable” options. Student debt has handicapped college graduates entering the workforce, weighing down young adults with a large sum of money owed at the onset of their professional careers.

With out-of-state tuition demanding even higher prices and student debt when compared to in-state options, receiving in-state rates can be the deciding aspect on whether or not a student decides to educate themselves outside of their home state. College majors such as Marine Science can be paid with similar rates when compared to in-state tuition if the state the student calls home does not offer the major in any state schools. This process is available through the Academic Common Market. “Tuition did have a big factor, because I wanted to go to California which would have been about $60,000-$70,000 per year, but I got in-state tuition at South Carolina from the Academic Common Market, which lead me to choose South Carolina,” says Woodgrove senior Bridget Vasta.

Although applying to college has become more complicated, high school seniors, living in the age of technology, social media, and the internet, have an advantage over previous generations when deciding where they should continue their education. The online options, easier advisor access, and more applications that are open to prospective students have made the average student more informed than ever before. The internet has opened up a world of information regarding college statistics, acceptance rates, recommended SAT scores, and fields of study offered by the college students desire to enroll in.

Navigating the choice when catalogs and publications were the only resources available to aid students through the college application process, Woodgrove English teacher Tom Clawson is well aware of how much applying for college has evolved throughout his teaching career of over 40 years. “So much more is online now, and you have a lot more information available through internet sources and being able to meet with people that are already attending that school, so it’s a lot more informed these days. All we really had were catalogs, so it’s better now,” Clawson says.

While it is common for students to go to a four-year university or college, going to a place such as NOVA, a community college, has its benefits, including cheaper alternatives to required courses in a four-year school and the option to transfer the credits earned after completion. Woodgrove High School senior Anthony Forrest, an equestrian who will be attending NOVA next fall, believes in the opportunities it offers. “I chose to attend NOVA online for 2 years and transfer to Liberty, also online. I did this because I will be competing internationally and won’t have time to attend classes in person,” says Forrest.

When determining the best higher education option, Woodgrove College and Career Center Advisor, Rachel Sutphin, advocates starting the process early to yield better results and less stress around the looming college decision deadline later on. “I think a lot of times students get really nervous senior year because now all of the sudden they’re trying to narrow their list down, so anything you can try to do to stay ahead of that in your junior or sophomore years goes a long way,” says Sutphin. Putting in the effort to scout different institutions earlier on in the process gives students a less murky outlook on their favorite schools, alleviating the turmoil the decision can have if a student is less prepared.