College Costs and Student Options

LibraryAsk any family with a high school student today, and you will hear about the cost of college. As tuition and fees continue to rise, many families are having a more difficult time paying for postsecondary education.

As Hechinger Report and PBS recently reported, college is now moving further out of reach for many low- and middle-income families. So much so that student financial aid is insufficient, and full-time, low-income college students need to work 20 hours a week just to make things work.

These challenges have resulted in many changes. For some, it means working full time while pursuing a part-time college career. Others pursue a more affordable two-year degree before transferring to a four-year university. Some may look at ways to gain college credit while still in high schools. And others are more closely scrutinizing whether college is even needed for their career interests.

Such challenges also provide opportunities. We know, from ERCA research and other sources, that students today do not see one path that works best for all learners. Instead, they seek to explore multiple options aligned with their interests and needs. And they are taking the time to better understand the skills, courses, degrees, and certifications necessary to achieve their career dreams.

With continued investment and understanding in student perceptions about careers and postsecondary education, our institutions of higher education can do a far more effective job in providing opportunities that match 21st century aspirations. The more students are involved in charting those pathways, the more relevant – and investment worthy – postsecondary education can be.

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