Stay With State for a Debt Free Fate

The New York Times

Annika Yong, Web and Photos Editor

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When it comes to choosing what colleges to apply to, juniors and seniors most likely turn to college rankings to determine the most prestigious and selective colleges as a ticket to success. However, one of the most impactful factor— cost and return on investment—  is often overlooked. The reasoning is simple: most high school students do not have financial responsibilities or longtime jobs, so it’s hard for students to even visualize the magnitude of college tuitions. While many might argue that cost should not be the sole factor in choosing colleges, there is little to justify the often enormous discrepancy in cost between public and private colleges. Most private colleges are simply not worth their value since undergraduate education generally only matters the most in only 4-5 years of your life, while the cost of the education would stay around for decades to come.


Looking into where most Irvington students apply, compare UC tuition ($30k) and most higher-ranked privates ($70-$80k), and we get a staggering $40k difference in tuition per year. 4 years would translate into a difference of $160k, and for the middle class who don’t get financial aid and have to take out enormous loans to afford education, private school tuitions will place huge financial toll on them and their family. Fremont has a median household income of $121k, so paying for private tuition account for a staggering 61% of annual income even for most residents in a relatively affluent district.

There is a common belief that private college students generally enjoy perks such as closer alumni connections, smaller student to teacher ratios, and bigger average endowments that give them more opportunities. However, it is important to note that private schools only give students a better opportunity of obtaining a job or a higher salary, but doesn’t guarantee it. According to Lexington Law, graduates will earn about 10% more income if they attend a private college over a lifetime than they would have if they chose a public college. However, private school graduates only start to surpass public school graduates in accumulated earnings over time by age 50. Which means that the additional money students spend to pay private college tuition in their twenties would only land them financially ahead of those who attend public university thirty years later. On top of that, it goes without saying that no matter the college students attend, what factors the most is how they make use of opportunities. Generally, students who attain success out of college do so largely due to their abilities and the effort put in seeking opportunities, while alumni connections, school brand and better resources only provide a slight edge, but are seldom, if ever, the defining factor.

While most students and/or their parents carry the financial burden of paying off private college tuitions for at least two decades, the prestige given by private education can only help you so far. The brand name of some prestigious private colleges might help graduates in landing their first job, but after that, employers weigh experience, performance reviews, and workplace achievements a lot more than where they graduated. In addition, NCES also found that public college education overwhelmingly surpasses private college education in terms of return on investment, which is calculated by factoring estimated lifetime earnings over four-year tuition. Compare the public and private university with the highest Return on Investment (ROI) respectively, and we find that Georgia Institute of Technology has a 4,735% ROI, far out-winning Princeton University, which has a 2,110 % ROI.

Cost aside, public colleges offer similarly amazing opportunities and education more often than not. Public universities also have a wider selection of majors and degrees compared to private universities, whose selective class sizes may limit students who are still finding a career path. Since public universities do not factor in legacy and base their admissions more on merit instead of familial connections or donations, this allows for greater economic diversity in the student population, which is seldom present in costly privates.

But shouldn’t we choose the college we see ourselves happiest in? This is a rule of thumb that people repeat in choosing colleges, but for some of us that are not given adequate financial aid or need to take out excessive loans in order to afford private institutions, reality dictates that we do not have the luxury to put the “happiness” or “best-fit” factor before the cost. What we often fail to realize is that all in all, college is a lofty investment that will impact us for decades to come, and when the financial return reaped cannot match up to the racked up price private colleges demand, there is little value in struggling and sacrificing so much for a four year education. Public colleges offer quality education and opportunities, and you do not have to wait until you are 50 to finally see your investment come through.