OPINION: I have no idea how I’m going to pay for college

Congress must act to make college affordable

OPINION: I have no idea how I’m going to pay for college

Ryleigh Selby

Thirteen-year-old me had only one worry on her mind: braces. Having perfect teeth didn’t seem worth all the pulling and stretching and tugging, paired with the constant jokes about the cost.

“At least it’s not college!” the orthodontist would say with a laugh as he and my mom talked about the expense of braces for me and my quadruplet sisters.

But now, at 17, college is right around the corner for us four. And it hasn’t gotten any cheaper.

The student debt crisis in the United States is one of the biggest issues our country is facing. It is one most Monarch students must endure, considering it’s nearly impossible to have a stable career without some level of higher education.

Student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category, right behind mortgage debt, according to the Student Debt Crisis website. Getting an education costs almost as much as owning a house, and the prices just keep going up. The Peterson Foundation states that student debt sat at about $345 billion in 2004. Today, that number has skyrocketed to $1.4 trillion nationwide.

From elementary school through the end of high school, college is the word on everyone’s tongue. “You need to do well on this test to get into a good college!” “Try taking AP classes to get some college credits!” “Have you started your college applications yet?” Why do they bring the topic up as soon as our education starts? Because that’s how soon we have to start preparing for it.

Growing up as a quadruplet with one older sister, just thinking about college feels daunting. With one parent working to pay five tuitions, dreaming big feels impossible. I’ve always wanted to go to a big out of state school and get the true “college experience.” However, with out-of-state tuition being in the $30,000 range, multiplying that by five becomes financially impossible.

My sisters and I, like many other high schoolers, work minimum wage jobs a couple days a week. A good amount of that money goes to gas, food, and the occasional shopping spree, yet there’s always that voice chanting in the back of my head: you have to save for college. You need this money for college. You’ll have to pay off your student debt.

The craziest thing about all of this is how much higher the United States’ student debt numbers are compared to other countries around the world. Although the problem isn’t isolated to the United States, ValueColleges.com explains that the most a university can charge in England comes to around $14,000 and other countries like Australia, Canada, and Chile cost under $10,000.

And I can’t forget to mention that in virtually every other college in the world, tuition is a whopping $0.That’s right, you heard me correctly. FREE.

How can we expect to have a country full of college-educated people when cost alone makes college out of reach for low and even middle class Americans? Financial aid only goes so far. Scholarships only go so far. You could apply for and write essays for every scholarship in the books, yet it still won’t even come close to being enough.

So what are our options here? We need our government to take action now. USA Today says the new Covid-19 Student Loan Forgiveness plan in the latest stimulus would keep student loan borrowers from making payments until the end of January and put a pause in interest on loans, which is a good first step towards essential, immediate financial relief.

Some members of Congress are urging the newly-inaugurated president Joe Biden to cancel up to $50,000 of student loan debt per person via executive order. This will help us finally move in the right direction to reduce or eliminate college tuition costs, therefore ending student loan debt.

The time for Congress to act is now.

I want to go to college, but I don’t want to bankrupt my parents in the process. This isn’t a choice anyone should have to make. It’s time to put an end to the destruction of student debt.