Anyone who is currently enrolled, planning to enroll, or recently graduated from college knows and understands how the cost of attending college is out of control. If you are one of these people then you are probably aware of how the financial aid that the government offers to students is not even close to how much it costs to actually attend. At the University of Pittsburgh, which I attend, after all the fees, room and board, meal plan charges, and tuition are put together it costs a Pennsylvania resident around $18,000 per year and an out-of-state resident around $27,000 per year. To make matters even worse over the past 3 years it has become an annual custom for Pitt to raise its tuition between 5 and 15 percent each year. These skyrocketing costs that are associated with obtaining a college education are preventing around 200,000 students from attending college each year. If we want our country’s economy and work force to grow we need to be investing in our future; we need to be investing in education.
There are two major aspects of governmental funding associated with higher education that need to be addressed in order for this growing problem to end. The Higher Education Act (HEA) is considered the single most comprehensive piece of legislation relating to higher education. Within this act are details pertaining to the TRIO programs which include Upward Bound, Student Support Services, Talent Search, Educational Opportunity Centers, and Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement. These programs all help get students into college and keep them there. This act also outlines the amount of money that is available through federal loans and grants and the details of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This act was introduced in 1965 with the plans of having it reauthorized every 5-7 years. The problem exists in the fact that the last time it was reauthorized was 1998, 10 years ago.
The second aspect is the annual budget that the President proposes and Congress subsequently approves or denies. Through the annual budget the government allocates funds to all of the programs that support higher education. In the past years, with George Bush as President, several programs have been up for elimination based on his proposed budget. There are several changes to the budget that could be made to help make higher education more accessible including raising the maximum Pell Grant that one can be awarded, increasing the money that programs such as the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships (LEAP) and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Program (SEOG) receive, and setting interest rates where students can actually afford to pay back their loans. The government needs to be pressured to realize that these changes are necessary for our country to be able to invest in its future through students.