By Alexuas Rollins (Senior)
Senior year is the time where seniors are busy applying to colleges in order to secure their future. Obtaining a college degree is valued as crucial to have to achieve success. Parents, teachers, and counselors have engrained in the heads of seniors how necessary it is. Most students want that college degree but struggle figuring out how in the world they can afford it.
In Chicago, high school seniors at Senn struggle with affording college during their last year due to increased tuition, lack of
funds, and college overall being expensive.
Financial aid packages awarded to students have been weaker than years past. Less money has been offered to students in scholarships and grants. As a result, this makes it more difficult for students to afford college.
Counselor at Senn High School Daniel Connor has taken notice of this issue over the past few years. He said, “Students financial aid packages from schools have not been as strong.” He also added, “They’re not getting as much in either grant money or scholarship money.”
In addition to students getting offered less money college tuition has spiked up. Some colleges have raised their tuition up five to ten thousand dollars since the beginning of this year.
“The school is expecting with rising tuition cost that families take on more debt and more loans,” Connor said.
Counselor Amainavt Vixama recalled the sentiment of students as a result of not being able to afford college. She said, “A lot of students I’ve talked to this year they’ve gotten to the point of being discouraged based on the fact they feel like they have no money to go to the school they want to.”
Senior Nibah Khan admitted that affordability did play a substantial role in her final college decision.
“It was a huge component because it costs so much just to attend and I didn’t get that much financial aid,” Khan said.
Khan decided to attend another school instead of her original choice. “Loyola was my first choice but due to financial aid I was unable to go.” Khan decided to go to The University of Illinois at Chicago instead since it was cheaper. Khan said, “UIC didn’t offer me a lot of money either but it was still more affordable than Loyola.”
Connor pointed out students sometimes have to choose a school that’s cheaper. He said, “Students are choosing different schools that fit their financial needs better.”
Nevertheless, Khan still stated that she was comfortable knowing that there were so many of her peers who would be attending UIC and many trusted adults including counselors and teachers assured her that UIC was a good school, helping her to feel better about her decision.
Connor believes taking on debt for college is beneficial later in life.
“Taking on debt for your education is an incredible investment. Connor also added that a student would be able to pay back the amount they owe over time and get a better paying job they wouldn’t have gotten without a college degree,” Connor said.
Connor did advise families on what to think about while their child is determining which college to go to. “Reasonable debt is what families need to consider.” He further elaborated saying, “5,000 to $6,000 a year for four years is not too much, a $24,000 loan to pay back is not terrible.”
But not all students have suffered much financial trouble when picking a college. Some have been able to attend the school that was their first choice and can afford to go to that college while collecting little to no debt at all.
After all, this senior class has accomplished a large feat in collecting scholarships. Connor reported, “This year’s class has been awarded 13 million dollars in scholarships.” He added that more seniors have earned more scholarships and the amount of scholarships each student has earned individually has been more.
Some students have opted out for a different choice by deciding to go to a community college like Harold Washington or Harry S. Truman to later transfer to a university to reduce the amount of debt they will have in their future.
Vixama noted that there wasn’t anything wrong going to a community college first and then transferring later to a university. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saving some money and going to a 2 year school and transferring to what it is you want to do.”
Vixama commented on the benefits that completing a transfer can have for a student she said that a lot of students that end up going to community colleges and transferring out end up in a much better financial situation.
In Vixama’s opinion not having the money to go to college isn’t a road block but just changes up your path. “Not having money isn’t a roadblock that’s only just changing up your journey from what somebody else’s journey can be.”
Sometimes you do face challenges but that means you just have to work harder to achieve your goal. This year’s senior class is prime example of that they’ve worked really hard and can now go to college to pursue their dreams.