The cost of college: What it is truly worth

Whether spent studying or socializing, a college education is crucial. (Amy Reynolds / Editor-in-Chief)

College is a monumental experience in the lives of young adults and it largely shapes their futures. Whether it is academics, extra curricular activities or even just social events, college helps students grow. Yet the burning question looms: How much does college truly cost students?

CNN Money, a tool on CNN.com, allows the public to research different costs of individual colleges with data from Peterson’s A Nelnet Company and the U. S. Department of Education. For the College, the fee of in-state tuition totals $26,576, which includes fees, room and board, and books but excludes grants and scholarships.

The figure is alarming, especially considering  the fact that the cost rises every year and that the number totals to over $100,000 over four years. Those kinds of numbers are extremely difficult for many families and students to pay. CNN Money’s estimated cost of tuition, after receipt of grants and scholarships, comes out to $23,200, a $3,376 deduction from the original cost. 67 percent of students receive grants and scholarships from the College, and while any amount of money helps, it doesn’t take away the hefty sum of money students still have to pay.

“It would be great if more students got grants and scholarships,” junior English major Neepam Shah said. “It would be great if the school made more of an effort to publicize outside scholarships. I’ve been searching for grants and scholarships and they’re very hard to come by.”

When comparing the cost to what students get out of the experience, it varies case by case, according to Shah.

“College is one of those things that it is what you make of it,” Shah said. “It makes you someone who can look at the world and understand what’s going on. It makes you look beyond whatever your home environment was. Our education here requires us to look outside of those backgrounds.”

Junior sociology major Sharmin Malik agrees, saying that she has gotten invaluable experiences out of college.

“So far, by attending TCNJ, I have been through so many experiences such as meeting new people, being able to learn in such a great institution and having the opportunity to just be here is a benefit in itself,” Malik said.

For some students, the scholarships are even more important. Malik is part of the College’s EOF program, which aims to help students with economical disadvantages. However, the average $3,376 reduction in price from grants does not entirely eliminate the burden of tuition payments.

“Even though this amount seems like a lot, it’s not nearly enough for most students to help pay for even a portion of the tuition bill,” Malik said with her own experience in mind. “These numbers are not fair to me because it doesn’t help me at all. By the time I graduate college, I will have taken out double the amount of loans an average student will have taken out because of the issue with income and where the money will come from next time.”

The College is doing its best to make that happen, according to executive director of college relations Stacy Schuster.

“This past July, the budget recommended to the Board of Trustees for the College had the lowest tuition increase in over 14 years, at 2.5 percent,” Schuster said. “The College also invested in increasing funding for institutional scholarships and waivers for FY14.”

For the costs of off-campus residents, such as those commuting from home, the price will obviously be reduced. CNN Money has the College’s annual tuition at $14,378 for in-state off-campus students and $24,530 for out-of-state off-campus students. While the figures are certainly more manageable for off-campus students, it takes out of the experience of college.

“You’re not being forced to meet people who are living right next door to you,” Shah said. “You really have to go out of your way to build that. I have a lot of friends who are commuters who get that experience, but that have to work harder for it.”

These numbers and opinions show that college is a double-edged sword. The experience and education is crucial to an individual’s growth, but the cost is an uphill battle for most students.

“I do agree with the fact that college is tough on students, especially financially for those students who are unfortunate to come from a background with little to no income,” Malik said. “However, the benefits that can be achieved by going to college do outweigh the financial problems that most students face during this time. Some of these benefits are earning a degree, being able to get a job that pays above minimum wage, being able to use your degree and job to move to a place with better living conditions.”

Most students must work hard through these obstacles in order to better their futures. That is the best way they can make sure the cost of college is worth it.