Put your money where the money is when it comes to college costs

The vast majority of the American population cannot spend close to half a million dollars on private schooling a year. For most middle-to-upper class students, Its more important to save your money to go to a more prestigious graduate school rather than devoting college expenses to undergraduate.

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The vast majority of the American population cannot spend close to half a million dollars on private schooling a year. For most middle-to-upper class students, It’s more important to save your money to go to a more prestigious graduate school rather than devoting college expenses to undergraduate.

By Sofia Williamson, Online Editor in Chief

CHS students graduate at rates of over 95 percent each year, and if you’ve read the Observer’s senior section, you can also tell by our never ending list of names that over 95 percent of us also go on to receive a college education. Less than five percent of the CHS student population is economically disadvantaged, and are eligible to receive financial aid from colleges. However, the majority of the CHS population is middle-to-upper class. To qualify within this range, median household income be between 100 and 200 thousand dollars per year in the United States. So how are most of us expected to spend over 50 percent per year of that on college?

Most CHS students are of families who are of middle-to-upper class standing, falling anywhere between these two ranges. So what happens when a student of a middle-class background is expected to pay 60-70 thousand dollars in tuition per year to attend a 4-year college or university, but they are not eligible to receive financial aid?

According to Sperling’s Best Places, an online database for information on local economic statistics, the 45 thousand residents of Potomac, Maryland earn a median household income of 180,000 dollars. This makes the average Churchill student of a background that is upper-middle class. Accounting for families who are financially stable enough to send their children to private schools, this median income becomes lower.

Let us suppose that one Churchill student’s family earns about 110,000 dollars a year on average. This student gains admission to the University of California, Berkley, for example, and is expected to pay 60 thousand dollars a year in tuition. Factor in travel costs, and this number amounts to a whopping 65 thousand dollars a year or more.

Any financial aid office will surely determine that any student whose parents collectively earn more than 100,000 a year can cover this cost. This family may have other children to put through college, and when income taxes, household expenses, and other living costs factor in… the family finds themselves in a massive amount of debt. When or if graduate school comes around for their child, it will cost them much more than a small financial headache.

Other circumstances can also affect the amount of financial aid a student gets. If a student’s parents are divorced, for example, it’s possible that only one parent may be responsible for covering the cost of their education. However, the FAFSA requires that all parents, including stepparents, and their incomes, are listed.

Evidently, factoring in four parents who the majority of financial aid offices blatantly assume will be willing to pay, the student will not receive financial aid.

Additionally, often times we run into parents who don’t do their part in saving up for college. Many students raise themselves on their own, while one or both of their parents are gone, due to factors such as alcoholism, gambling addiction, or simple neglect of responsibility. These parents may have never saved for college, they may be in deep debt, or in the worst cases, they may be bankrupt.

Regardless of if these parents make a middle-to-upper class income each year or live off inheritance, any of these factors could lead a parent to not adequately save for their child’s education. When there’s no money saved, they must rely on purging over half of their annual income each year. Is it possible? Yes. But realistic? No.

There’s a stigma at CHS that is permanently ingrained into our brains within our first week of freshman year: “she’s ‘smart’, so she’s going to go to a ‘good college'”. We learn that ‘smartness’, or mental capacity, equals academic success, and a ‘good college’ is anything ranking higher than the University of Maryland on the college rankings U.S. News and World Report (our gospel).

I can only hope, for the sake of all of my fellow not-quite-upper-class students, that once we reach our senior year, we become aware that “smartness” doesn’t always equal academic success, and “dumbness” doesn’t always equal academic failure. Most importantly, however, I pray that we recognize that regardless of if that “smart” girl gets into an ivy, that doesn’t usually mean she’s going.

According to a study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on average earnings as correlated with education levels, those with a master’s degree or above make anywhere from 10 to 25 thousand dollars or above more than those with a bachelor’s degree.
So if you’re a CHS student who doesn’t think being in debt for the next 20 years after college is a great idea, or if you hope to maybe pursue a master’s or professional degree, take a look at statistics: put your money where the money is.

Let’s suppose that two Churchill alumns enter their first job interview. You are the supervisor of one of it’s important departments, and you want to hire the best candidate for a vacant position. They pretty much have the same likeable traits in an employee, and while they each attained the same degree, they received two different levels of education.

The supervisor asks both candidates about their educational backgrounds. Student #1 says they went to Brown and simply got an undergraduate degree. Student #2, however, says they went to the University of Maryland, Baltimore College, then was accepted to a top graduate program Brown, achieving a Master’s Degree. Which student are you going to hire?

Student #2 was able to achieve their undergraduate degree by paying in-state tuition on top of various merit scholarships. Student #2 was the “smart” CHS freshman that everyone believed would attend an ivy straight out of graduation. When Student #2 committed to attending UMBC, Student #1 laughed at her decision and wondered what options it would give her. Fast forward a few years, and Student #2 gets the job. Today, Student #2 makes 25 thousand dollars more a year on average than Student #1, and Student #2 will have the option of sending her children to their undergraduate and graduate schools of their choosing.

Competitive private universities aren’t likely to change their tuitions any time soon. Students from middle-income families, however, can learn to manipulate the standing system. So, CHS students, don’t look up or down on another student because of where they choose to go for their undergraduate degree. Know that most of us can’t pay 70 thousand a year, and if you do find yourself in that boat, be more like Student #2.

Put your money where the money is.