MHP   |  October 06, 2013

Cost of college tuition a burden for students

With average student loan debt being $26,000, the cost of higher education is a big factor when students are considering which schools to attend, and if attendance is even a possibility. Melissa Harris-Perry is joined by Travis Reginal, a second year student at Yale University; Sophia Zaman, President of United States Student Association; Kim Pate, a senior from Oklahoma Virtual High School; and Zak Malamed, sophomore at University of Maryland.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> according to the white house , over the last three decades, the average tuition at a four-year college has ballooned by more than 250%. today, students hoping to attend a four-year college expect to shell out a minimum of $17,860 a year. that's the average for tuition, fees, room and board, at a public four-year college for in-state students. and the cost only goes up from there. more than $30,000 a year for out of state students attending a public school and almost $40,000 a year for a private four-year college . for nearly two-thirds of bachelors' degree recipients, paying for all that education means taking out loans, which means the average borrower will graduate with a degree and $26,000 in debt. don't cry. joining me here on the stage is travis reginald, a sophomore at yale university . kim pate, a high school senior from oklahoma, who spent her sophomore year studying abroad in finland. zack mollamed, a sophomore at the university of maryland and founder and executive director of student voice , and sophia , a 2013 graduate of the university of massachusetts and president of the united states ' students association . thank you all for being here. i want to start with you, because your story is an interesting one and one that i remember well from college , where you start out with a full scholarship in your first year, and then a gap starts to grow each year. talk to me about that.

>> oh, yes. it also comes with like rising tuition costs and calculating your estimated need for the school year. and so what happens each year, the student contribution increases is, so for sophomores, it's over $1,000 additional from freshman year. and so that kind of can be an issue. like, okay, this is supposed to be coming there like your summer savings. and the freshman amount is like more reasonable, but unless you're having some job, like in financing or something, where people make $18,000 in the summer, and let you do that, it's not really feasible. even if you work full-time as a student, people calculate, you're not going to make those, an amount that they want.

>> at this point, sophia , i wonder how often a decision about money and a concern about the question of how to pay for college impacts the decisions that students make about where they apply and where they end up matriculating.

>> absolutely. and we see that students right now are graduating with more and more levels of debt and i think that's something else that goes into consideration. we know that attending a public college or a public university is not as affordable as it used to be. and it's really a shame, because states are divesting, the federal government is divesting from higher education . and it should be a right, it should be a public good, and something that's accessible to all.

>> this is one of the reasons that the cost of education goes up, for students, is in part because there's less, sort of dollars coming in from the state. now, you are at this moment applying to colleges. how much are you considering cost of college in your decision?

>> one of the first pages i go when i go on the websites is the tuition, how much student aid do that give? how much of that can i expect? if it's very little, there's no point in me looking at the school and getting excited if i know it's not going to be a feasible option.

>> how much does the ability to take loans affect that? if you're like, well, it's expensive, but i'm willing to take out the loans, is it just about how risk averse a student is?

>> i would make the case that going to school at the worst time you could have possibly ever gone to school because of the value of school . the value diminishing, and when even i consider taking out loans, that wasn't enough for me to make the decision as to whether or not i should actually go to that school or whether or not i should stay in school . it's a tough decision, because, you know, we look at job opportunities today and they aren't there. the value is just not there and the return is not there.

>> sorry, i would disagree with you a little bit about the idea that the value of a college education has increased because at this moment, there's a gap for those who actually finished that degree.

>> there are plenty of students. research shows that students who go to school are more likely to get a job. undoubtedly, that's the case, but at the same time, there aren't enough jobs out there for everyone. so is college the right decision for everyone? for me, i think i might be an in inspiring entrepreneur. so the school really for me? that's the question i keep asking myself. and is school for only social science students, or is it focused on, if i wanted to be a lawyer or a doctor, of course i need to go to school . but for an entrepreneur? it's a question we have to ask ourselves.

>> let me ask that question out in the audience. we have allison here. mara, what do you have?

>> allison is a freshman at howard university and you did make that decision to go to that school because of the a you got.

>> i got a full scholarship and without that scholarship, i would not have been able to go to college or howard specifically. my concern is the 400 students at howard who did not return last year because they were not able the to afford it. the students coming from underprivileged backgrounds and underprivileged communities are basically forced to take out lobes or forego college , which will create some type of revolving door that forces students back into these communities.

>> we have a lot on the table here. the question of whether or not college is still worth it or how we pay for it.

>> i've got sophia with a question about undocumented students.

>> i'm an scoe scholar. my question is, there are many undocumented students who are always striving to get a better education. what are we doing, what are the opportunities the that we're providing for them to help them financially? because most of them just stop after high school , because they cannot afford it. their families cannot help or get the amount of loans that they need to help them.

>> sophia , i'll throw this to you.

>> absolutely. all across the country, there are a lot of state-level fights that are happening around tuition equity for undocumented students, particularly with the u.s. student association , we've partnered with united we dream and their affiliates are working in states like connecticut and new jersey, california, wisconsin, washington, right? and we know that, like, again, we believe education is a right. and so we really believe that undocumented students should be able to access in-state tuition, and furthermore, should be able to access grants and similarships to help fund their education, because we believe that they deserve to go to college just as much as i do.

>> mara?

>> -- at nyu and she has a question about the cost of college test prep.

>> so college test prep is rather expensive. so how could college board and sort of a.c.t. testing promote fair testing standards when there are kids from higher socioeconomic backgrounds who can pay for testing or tutoring that can range from a test prep book that can range from $80 from test tutoring that can cost in upwards of $4,000.

>> this is a fabulous question. do you want to take this one?

>> i would say that i don't think you necessarily need all of these things that she's talking about. like, this expensive test prep. it's something that someone made a market for. like how technology is coming into play, there's so much information online, so many free resources. and people who's giving away free s.a.t. and a.c.t. prep books that really helps you chief the same scores as those students who have additional practice.

>> it is a essential question about the fairness of standards. if our s.a.t.s and a.c.t. scores are more correlated with family income than college .

>> this is corwin and he is himself a future educator studying at cambridge university .

>> my question is, as i finish my bachelor's degree and i'm already thinking about grad school and hopefully want to get my ph.d, i'm thinking about the large amounts of debts that i'm going to be having. and knowing that teachers' salaries are not that much, what should we be doing? it almost makes me question, should i go into this field, knowing that i'm going to be saddled with so much debt?

>> well, i am still paying off my student loans . i don't really know what to tell you. but what i will say is this. you know, one of the things that we will undoubtedly have to continue to address is the question, the affordability of question and the affordability of graduate school beyond it. but in the meantime, your point about being an entrepreneur, i guess the one thing i would say is, i do the work they love and i'm extraordinarily blessed to be able to be in a position that when i am in the classroom, i am doing the work that i love that honestly, and i probably shouldn't say this on-air, but i would probably do it for free. and i certainly would do it for not much pay in the classroom, as do most teachers. so i guess one of the things i would say is, we've got to not -- even as we make that decision, we also have to recognize, we have but one life. and often, that life, the value of it, can't quite be measured in the issue of debt. stay with us. we're going to be right back. there is going to be more from our audience at the 2013