• Maribeth Harper

Fireworks over the Cost of Higher Education


In this unwelcome season of Covid 19, we have been forced to live with lots of volatility-- in our spiritual lives (social distancing at Mass, no singing, etc) in our family lives, as we're all together under one roof, and--painfully-- in our financial lives. Economic instability has caused many of us to reevaluate our spending, especially on big-ticket items like college tuition. More of us are asking, "Is the price tag for a college education worth it?"

We're acutely aware that parents and children who pay for college are consumers of a product, and the value of that product (a college degree) may have been diluted by distance learning, cuts on college campus, and Covid restrictions yet to be determined.

According to the American Council on Education, 15 percent less students plan to return to college this fall. Among those I've spoken to, some are taking a gap year to wait and see how things settle out. Others who object to a hybrid distance/learning and on-site proposal and are looking to transfer to another school or stay local.

With fewer students expected on campus, colleges are scrambling to woo applicants. It's become a buyers market! Experts encourage applicants to ask for discounts and to negotiate between schools to get the best price. And colleges have pushed back their application deadlines so that perspective students have more time to decide.

From a consumer perspective, it makes sense to want the lowest tuition possible, but price isn't the only consideration when making the important decision about where to attend college. Covid forces us to inquire about start dates, calendar changes, social distancing requirements, and the availability of labs, libraries, gyms, and restaurants on campus.

Praying college moms have an important resource to help with discernment about the best college for our children. Prayer. After the bartering has been done and we understand how each college will deal with Covid, we take it to prayer. Or better yet, we pray with our student. In these strange times, we pray, "Lord, lead us to the best school for 2020/21, keep us safe and healthy."

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