OPINION: Why you don’t need to go to the best college

Shea Dobson

Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

The deadline for most early application or early decision college programs is Nov. 1. It’s no secret that Manual is a school full of high-achieving students,  and many of these students submit their applications with their eyes aimed on the big leagues–Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and others. However, with the ever increasing tuition costs and student loan interest rates, it’s starting to look like attending the number one college isn’t always the number one choice.

It’s common knowledge that college is expensive. Any out-of-state or private university will be very costly, unless one attends a military college or receives a lot of financial aid and scholarships. But still, the newest numbers are incredibly alarming. Of all of Forbes’ Top 100 Colleges in the U.S., only two cost less than $40,000 a year. One of these colleges is Brigham Young University (#79), a Mormon school located in Provo, Utah. The other is United States Military Academy (#9), a military school in West Point, N.Y., which is free of charge. This means that most of the colleges considered to be academically rigorous by Manual students actually fall far out of price range.

Financial aid is wonderful, and most Manual students receive a substantial amount. However, it’s important to remember that almost all financial aid packages entail student loans, which will develop interest over time. 62% of Kentucky students graduate with some form of debt, with the average amount being $22,384. This debt will hamper students for years after they graduate, which is even worse considering that 60% of recent college graduates can’t find a job in their field of expertise.

Yes, students have the option of earning scholarships. However, only one in ten students receives private scholarships, which totals an average of only $2,800 a year. Furthermore, good grades alone are not sufficient to attain a significant amount of scholarship money. Only 19% of students with a GPA between 3.5 and 4.0 will receive a scholarship. And of all the students attending college, only 0.3%– 3 in 1000, will receive enough money to pay for their schooling in full. So the question is not whether or not Manual students are capable of getting into their dream school, the question is whether or not they can afford to go.

Many Manual students cringe at the mention of the words “in-state.” And I understand why. Most of us have been working hard since we were kids, all with dreams of getting in to our dream school, a perfect place that we deserve to go to. But this isn’t about what we deserve, this is about what we can afford. The cost of a public in-state college is is significantly less than that of any out-of-state college. University of Louisville costs only $18,946 for a full year for in-state students, while University of Kentucky costs $21,438 for in-state students. These prices aren’t wonderful, but they’re far more reasonable than the prices of most out-of-state colleges. Furthermore, many past Manual students have received very generous scholarships from in-state colleges.

Now, this isn’t a message telling you to give up on your dreams. Every year, some Manual students do end up winning big scholarships to attend their dream school. I’m just trying to inform you of the benefits of going to a cheaper school and not graduating with levels of debt you can’t afford to pay off. And keep in mind that your skills, rather than a specific college listed on your diploma, are what future employers will be seeking.