As tuition climbs, undergrad degrees growing too expensive

By Patricia Negron

Suffolk’s full-time undergraduate tuition will rise to $33,800 for the next academic year, an increase of about 4 percent. Though it may seem like a pretty small number, it is way too much for just one year, especially considering that rents are also going up in Boston, with some students experiencing monthly rises in the hundreds.

Suffolk prides itself on being one of the best and most affordable private non-profit universities in the area. However, according to the Project on Student Debt, the average debt of Suffolk graduates in 2013 was $33,812, which is $5,247 more than the state average for the same year ($28,565).

The same analysis shows the average debt of Emerson graduates is $24,451, despite the fact that Emerson tuition was $3,406 more expensive than Suffolk’s for that year.

Students in the U.S. who graduated in May 2014 did so with a student loan debt average of $33,000, a record-breaking figure, according to an analysis by Mark Kantrowitz, an expert on student debt issues. That amount of debt barely covers this academic year’s tuition for Suffolk’s undergraduate students, which is $32,530 (excluding housing costs, class materials and living expenses), and it’s actually less than Suffolk’s tuition for next year.

Though the average debt accredited to Suffolk graduates in 2013 is higher than the state average, Suffolk’s average debt load is still lower than those of other private universities like Boston University ($37,694), and not that much higher than the average debt of students graduating from public universities like UMass Boston ($26,078).

The problem with tuition is much bigger than Suffolk. College degrees are definitely more expensive than ever, with The Wall Street Journal noting, “even after adjusting for inflation that’s nearly double the amount borrowers had to pay back 20 years ago.” But are we reaching a point in which students everywhere should be telling colleges and universities that enough is enough?

Suffolk offers small classes with great professors, and tuition hikes are to be expected, but is so much money reasonable for only one of the four years?

While I believe that a great education like the one I’ve been receiving at Suffolk is the most valuable tool in life, the numbers just don’t seem affordable for many people in this economy.

Considering how expensive tuition is at most colleges and universities, Suffolk’s planned tuition increase of $1,270 seems like a small amount. Nevertheless, student debt will inevitably rise with these tuition costs, which could economically impair students’ future.

In an extreme example of this situation, borrowers could lose their professional licenses for ignoring their student loan payments, according to The Huffington Post. This penalty strips them of the very means to pay off their loans, locking them in a cycle that will be more difficult to get out of. Does it really make sense to punish someone for not paying their student loans by removing their means pay them?

More importantly, is it worth incurring in so much student debt to educate and prepare yourself for a particular workforce, to then be shunned from working because you can’t pay your loans and establish your life at the same time?

For now, it seems tuition rates will keep increasing in most (if not all) higher learning institutions at a higher rate than inflation. Suffolk’s incoming undergraduates will receive an education at the estimated price of $135,200 without including any future tuition hikes, rent, healthcare, transportation and living expenses.

A four-year undergraduate degree shouldn’t be this expensive and shouldn’t imply all the debt it does, even in the heart of Boston.