Michelle Fernandez, a first-generation Cuban-American, hopes to be the first one in her family to graduate from college but with the high cost of tuition that may not be a possibility.
Fernandez, a sophomore at the University of Tampa majoring in Biology, has had to acquire two jobs in order to pay the university’s high tuition rate.
“I went to college thinking that it was going to be difficult because of the coursework but I never really expected the cost of tuition to be as big of a factor as it is,” Fernandez said. “I realize I go to a private university, but the cost of school can be a huge distraction from actual school work and scholarships are never really as easy to get as people make them out to be.”
Currently, student debt has skyrocketed to new heights. According to findings by the Federal Reserve, as recent as March, student debt in the U.S. has reached about $1.2 trillion across the board.
With the upcoming election, this issue has become even more pressing. Politicians on both sides are trying to come up with a reasonable solution. For instance, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders is in favor of eliminating college tuition, stating that he believes a college education should be free in the U.S.
This idea may seem radical to many people at first, but many universities in the U.S. previously operated in such a manner. Currently, a small portion of universities does not charge tuition. These universities still may charge for things such as room and board, but tuition is not included.
However, not all students find the cost of tuition to be an issue. Both sides of the spectrum are equally represented when it comes to this particular issue.
“I am personally from Jamaica and I know that some people that are from the U.S. might find the tuition expensive, but for international students like me, it is worth it to get the experience of going to school in the United States,” Wainwright Heron, a senior at the University of South Florida majoring in economics, said. “For the opportunity to get a quality education abroad, I see no issue with paying the cost.”
Even at schools where tuition is charged there are alternatives to paying out of pocket. Most universities offer programs such as federal work study, grants, and scholarships in order to ease the financial burden on students.
“The controversy over making universities tuition-free is not holistically an economic one but rather the monetary aspect is a portion of a greater issue,” Javier Rodriguez, an economist, said. “By making tuition free to everyone, unfortunately, we would be devaluing the merit of earning a degree. A college degree would be as useful as a high school diploma.”
There are many issues that impact students from homesickness to depression, and the cost of tuition is another one of these problems for some. Fernandez said the best thing she can do is to remain positive.
“The best case scenario would be for me to graduate and find a good enough job to pay back all my debt and still have enough money to live comfortably,” Fernandez said. “I just have to keep my eyes on the prize.”