What is Student Debt?

It’s no surprise that tuition cost in USA is sky-high, with fees and costs soaring higher and higher every year. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average tuition cost for one academic year has increased from $14,995 in 2000 to $23,091 in 2016.

These numbers include all tuition, fees, room, and board, but don’t seem to include books. This means that the four-year program, your degree can easily cost you upwards of $90,000.

A book-lovers paradise!

Fortunately, I had the blessing of studying in Puerto Rico where tuition for local residents at public universities is much cheaper than the US. My five-year mechanical engineering curriculum was a total of 159 credits. At a locked price of $49 the credit for the duration of my degree, I ended up paying $7791 for the five years. I estimate the fees, boarding, and books (thankfully no silly obligatory meal plans) were about $10,000, for a total of around $18,000.

Rounding it up, five years of tuition for $20,000 is not even what the average cost is here for one year! No wonder so many teenagers opt to skip higher education when finishing high school.

Hopefully those that pursue higher education, choose something they are passionate about. I imagine it would be a miserable life to work on something you don’t enjoy just to repay a debt. Looking at it this way, it seems silly that the old “classic” go-study-so-you-have-a-future point of view seems like a circle of studying, acquiring debt along with some useful skills, adding your hard-earned (and expensive) degree to your resume, then working to repay the debt. But that’s a completely different topic.

Going back to tuition cost, I’ve visited various universities here including some of the big ones like Harvard, and local town colleges. In all of them I have seen one thing in common: amazing infrastructure. Of course they have infrastructure. A teaching place needs classrooms!

But the grandiosity of the universities here in the USA is outstanding. You don’t need so much high-end and grandiose infrastructure to teach and learn. I’m sure that simpler infrastructure wouldn’t be the solution to the high cost of tuition, but it would definitely help.

The athletics facilities at my university weren’t the best, but they sufficed for our training just fine.

In Puerto Rico, I would sometimes complain about classrooms with fans and no air-conditioners, or when the smart-boards didn’t work properly, or the limited study rooms, or the lack of a huge, fancy sports stadium for our local team. But I would gladly take all of these if it meant cheaper tuition.

So my advice for college-hunting teenagers, skip the pomp and circumstance. Always research your different options. And hopefully universities can start emphasizing the teaching aspect and not just sports.

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