Calculating College

Maria and Ryan Connelly are pictured here. Both went to university in Ireland, but Ryan, a native of Ireland, paid a much different rate than Maria, an American citizen. (Photo by courtesy of Maria and Ryan Connelly)

The cost of college is something many parents think and worry about even before their child is born. The cost can keep people from attending school in the first place, so imagine paying nothing for your college education—leaving school with no student loan debt. In Germany that’s a reality, not just a fairy tale. In the United States where, according to CNN Money, the average student owes more than $30,000 by the time they graduate, there are few fairy tale endings.

Most students and their families in the United States believe attaining a college degree is the best investment they can make for their future. However, that knowledge comes with the burden of college debt. Sometimes school loan debt can even keep graduates from buying a house, starting a business or continuing their education.

The price of college increases every year and in the United States more and more students are priced out of a college education—but that’s not true in the rest of the world. For example, students in Ireland incur less debt than many U.S. students.

Ryan and Maria Connelly are a young couple living in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland. Both attended school in Ireland but paid very different rates. Ryan Connelly is a native of Ireland and was eligible to use Ireland’s Free Fees Initiative, a government program which helps cover the cost of college. Ryan went to Trinity College, a well-respected university in Dublin, and completed a four-year program for his English bachelor’s degree, followed by a one-year Master’s degree.

“It was 2,500 euros (approximately $2,911) for each year of the undergrad,” Connelly, said “And it was about 4,500 euros (approximately $5,239) for the year of the Master’s. It was a lot cheaper because I was a EU citizen as well.”

To compare, a four-year degree at a similar school in the United States might cost up to $60,000 a year, including room and board, according to Bloomberg News.

Maria Connelly, a citizen of the United States, attended the American College in Dublin and completed a three-year liberal arts degree. Because Maria was not an EU citizen, her tuition fees were much higher than Ryan’s, paying $23,500 dollars for all three years; that’s less than the average U.S. student pays per year. When the cost of room and board is included at a public in-state college, tuition can cost about about $24,000 per year in 2016, according to Time Magazine Money.

Like Ireland, England has a program similar to the Irish Free Fees Initiative, which means the cost of college is largely financed by the government. The price also doesn’t differ too much between universities, even at the most prestigious English universities like Oxford and Cambridge. The maximum cost per year is similar to that of any other university—6,000 euros per year (which is about $6,900). A U.S. student will likely pay more than that to attend any university—and to attend an Ivy League school like Yale or Harvard, it might be more than $60,000 per year. In America, the more prestigious a university is, the more it will cost.

School teacher Isabel Errington, a U.K. citizen who recently graduated from Cambridge University in England, said unlike most U.S. students, she wasn’t concerned about how to pay for college.

“I knew I could get a student loan,” Errington said. “If that hadn’t been possible, I would definitely have worried.”

Like Ireland, the price of school in the U.K. can be much different if you’re not a native citizen. Ben Conroy is a native of Ireland who is attending Cambridge University. He is studying politics, philosophy and economics. Before he went to the university he worked as a journalist and a researcher.

“It’s £9,000 a year,” Conroy said. “Plus accommodation and living costs, which are subsidized a bit by my university.”

Even though that’s quite a bit higher than Errington’s tuition, it is still around 60 percent less than a U.S. student would pay for a degree at a similar caliber university, according to Bloomberg News.

Like U.S. students, Errington and Conroy will accumulate debt, and even though they’ll owe much less than a student in the United States, it will still impact their future.

“I’ll have some [debt] by the end of the course, but not a huge amount,” Conroy said. “I’d have a lot more if I decided to do a Master’s or Ph.D and couldn’t get funding, which would very much influence my decision on whether to do that or not.”

Both U.S. and U.K. students can set up loan repayment based on their income level, so the amount students pay per month depends on how much money they make. But there’s one extreme difference—in the United States no matter how long it takes you, how much money you owe, or what your income is, you have no choice but to pay it all off. Even if you were to declare bankruptcy it would be very difficult to get your student loans forgiven. But in the U.K. if your loan isn’t paid back within 30 years, the government will write it off, meaning around 80 percent of students will never have to finish paying back their college debt, according to The Guardian, a prominent British newspaper.

Maggie Guter and GlenEllen Lehmberg, both natives of Marquette and 2015 graduates of MSHS, thought about the cost when choosing where to go to college. Guter is currently attending Georgetown University and Lehmberg is at Michigan State University. They’ve both taken out loans for their education, and both of their families have also helped financially.

“My parents have been saving money in an education fund for me as long as I can remember, and I’m so thankful for them,” Lehmberg said. “I would not be studying at Michigan State University without them.”

Even with help from their families both Guter and Lehmberg are already concerned about how much debt they’re likely to have by the time they graduate.

Including room and board, Lehmberg’s tuition is about $50,000 to $60,000 per year, and Guter pays around $70,000. Guter is aware of how much debt she will accumulate and realizes the debt will impact her future, but since loans are the only real option, she focuses on her education.

“Thinking about how much debt I’m already in and will end up in is terrifying, but there’s nothing I can do about it personally, so I try not to think about it,” Guter said.

There’s one basic fact that explains why the cost of a college education in the United States is so much higher than in other countries: In Ireland, England, and several other European countries the government has some control over the costs and covers some, if not all, of the costs.

It’s 100 percent different in the United States. According to CNN Money, because of the way the student loan system is set up, it’s possible the government makes money from student debt—according to one estimate, the government might have made $1.6 billion in 2016. But that fact isn’t clear cut. The true profit or loss of the federal student loan system is dependant on how much of each loan is paid back, and that repayment might take 40 years according to CNN Money.

In Washington, D.C., politicians have been discussing the student debt crisis for many years and have conflicting ideas about how to fix the problem. Some argue for the government to stay out of the student loan issue and others believe government intervention is the answer. But there hasn’t been much progress on the student debt crisis here in the United States, and students like Lehmberg and Guter are still accumulating debt, which certainly is not a fairy tale ending to earning a college degree and starting a new career.

Written by Brandon O’Brien, 14, with contributions by Abby Pierce, 18, and Angel O’Connor, 17.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.