Rising tuition yields creative solutions


Graphic by Joaquin Dorado

By Brooke Braman

Years ago, the annual cost of tuition at the collegiate level averaged between $500 and $1,000 dollars. Today, tuition rates can run as high as $60,000 per year. Teachers have noticed the ever-increasing cost of a college education.

Though recently year-to-year increases in tuition have slowed, the reality for many students remains the same: the cost of higher education is intimidating.

The University of Kansas, for example, raised tuition rates and fees by 4.4 percent this year. Although this was the smallest price hike in recent history, the annual cost of tuition nears $19,000. This is an especially hefty price tag as the median household income in the state totals just over $51,000, according to the US Census Bureau.

Though college bound students should be aware of the high cost of a college education, they should not be discouraged as faculty, staff and students shared advice for making higher education more affordable. Five of the most popular suggestions are the following:


Fulfill prerequisite degree requirements at community colleges

“The cost of education is increasing every year,” guidance counselor Lori Stussie said. “What I’ve begun to notice is that many students at LHS have begun to take their prerequisite courses at Johnson County. JCCC is about one third the cost of KU. Some students will begin taking these classes as early as senior year… It’s very cost effective.”

Gifted coordinator Janette Michaels shared further benefits to attending community college as a cost-effective alternative to four-year universities.

“I think that people should consider community college because when you go to a college like JCCC you’re going to have professors, most of whom have PhDs, that don’t have the same kind of pressure as the professors that you might encounter during your first couple years at a public university,”  Michaels said. “When you go to a community college, you have very highly educated people whose main concern is teaching; that’s their main focus.”


Take AP classes

Advanced Placement or AP classes are certified college-level classes offered at high schools throughout the nation. Standardized examinations are administered the end of every academic year. Many universities will offer college credit to students who score well on AP exams.

“There are lots of ways students can bring the cost of college down,” Latin teacher Jason Lichte said . “One of those ways is to take a lot of AP classes, study hard and do well on those AP exams, so they can go into college with credit.”


Take a gap year or join the workforce before entering college

“Really give some thought to whether or not you’re ready for college. The perception is that many students feel they need to go directly from high school to college,  and for some students that might not be the case,” Stussie said. “Some students might want to work, save some money and figure some things out before going to college. Explore your options.”

Perhaps due to the high cost of tuition, the decision to wait to go to college has become increasingly popular.

“What I’ve noticed is more and more students taking a gap year between high school and college as they try to figure out what the really want,” Lichte said. “Maybe it means joining the Peace Corp for a year or AmeriCorp or even joining the military for a year.”

The idea of joining the military after high school may be an interesting and viable option for students with the development of programs like military tuition assistance in which branches of the US military will pay up to 100 percent of college tuition who for active duty persons. For those not interested in joining the armed forces, a gap year could be spent working.

Working to save money for college is a concept senior Madison Ruder knows well. Ruder, who will be paying for her college education by herself, advises students in similar situations to get into the workforce.

“What I’ve learned is that you have to work as much as you can,” Ruder said. “It’s not fun to hear, but it’s helpful.”


Consider the Midwest Student Exchange Program

The Midwest Student Exchange Program is a regional tuition reciprocity program in which member universities offer tuition breaks to out-of-state students from the midwest.

Attending a university involved in this program represents a more affordable way to attend an out- of-state college. Other students choose to establish residency in another state before starting college, thus allowing for in-state tuition for those who may not want to attend a Kansas college.

For students looking to get even further away from home, universities abroad can be surprising inexpensive. Even for international students, tuition at Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada, is a mere $6,000, according to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.


Scholarships, scholarships, scholarships

“It’s been my experience that the vast majority of scholarships will come from the colleges themselves,” Michaels said. “The small private schools have endowments that they can give out as scholarships. There are a few big ones like the Byrd Scholarship and the Gates Millennium Scholarships.”

Though many colleges today offer financial aid packages, private scholarships can be extremely valuable to the lucky few who win.

“I went online and looked up scholarships,” senior AnnaKate Kleiböhmer said. “I applied for about 10 of them. Even though they were only $500, everything helps since college is so expensive.”

Scholarships can easily be found on websites like scholarships.com or cappex.com. Large private scholarships like the Siemens Math, Science, and Technology Award Scholarship, are worth between $10,000 and $100,000. Additionally, the guidance office offers financial aid information through monthly scholarship newsletters and federal financial aid night.

“The four counselors collect information from various sources and gives it to Kris Bradfield, the guidance office secretary,” Stussie said. “She complies a scholarship newsletter every month for seniors. College fairs and financial aid night are other good opportunities to learn about colleges and scholarships.”

Financial aid night is a yearly event in which parents are invited to learn about financial aid assistance like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This financial aid program, based off of demonstrated financial need and family income, can be completed online at the US Department of Education’s website.

“The FAFSA deadline is coming up next month,” Stussie said. “The sooner you turn the forms in, the better. Money is on a first come, first serve basis. You’re more likely to get money if you turn it in sooner.”