What is a college education worth?

Last week was bittersweet for me. I helped my son move into his dorm at Washington State University. He wanted to go, and I was ready for him to go, but it was still hard.

Washington State was not the college he had dreamed of attending, nor was it the price that he hoped to pay. For years, he dreamed of going out-of-state to college. He wanted to experience education and life outside of Idaho, and he wanted to experience it at the University of Oregon. He knew that it was difficult to get in, so he worked hard to get good grades and took the SAT several times. During the summers, he worked full time, all in the hopes of moving to Oregon and becoming a Duck.

In the fall of his senior year, he eagerly filled out his application to Oregon. He knew he needed backup options, so he applied to a few other schools that offered reduced tuition to out-of-state residents, through the Western Undergraduate Exchange Program. When his email of acceptance at Oregon finally came, he was elated…until he calculated the cost of tuition and housing.

Oregon is not one of the schools in the Western Undergraduate Exchange Program. They offer need based scholarships, and academic scholarships, but he didn’t qualify for either. The cost of attending college out-of-state would have meant incurring nearly $100,000 of debt, just to get an undergraduate degree. The price tag of becoming a Duck was too high, so he began calculating the costs of other colleges.

He was accepted into several other schools, but immediately ruled out the most expensive ones that didn’t offer scholarships or reduced tuition. We helped him make a detailed list of the pros and cons and costs of all the colleges, and Washington became the best choice for him.

Now that he has visited the campus several times and spent his summer working long hours, he is happy to be attending WSU and paying less than he would have at Oregon. Even with the WUE scholarship, college is still expensive. He will have to use all of his savings to cover the cost of his first year. Then, he will still have to work part time during school and full time during the summer, if he hopes to avoid getting a loan.

My son is not the only high school graduate grappling with the high cost of college education. Even students who chose to go to college in Idaho, have to pay increasingly higher costs.

Education is important, but would you encourage your kids to go to college, if it meant they’d have to incur debt?

Melanie Flake

Melanie Flake

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