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TEENS: Staring down the cost of applying for college

Kenzie Power
Kenzie Power

As I have been going through the college admission process, I have come to one main conclusion: I should not have to boil lifelong traumas into cards in my hand in order to think about just starting to be able to afford higher education.

“In the 21st century, a college education is considered by many to be a key to financial security in the new knowledge-based economy. But ever-rising tuition prices offer a financial challenge for many American families,” Dan Lips said in an article for The Heritage Foundation.

In a country where trade jobs are talked down as a worst case scenario and college is seen as a necessity, I’m left to wonder why I have to boil my sexuality, my mental illness and the sudden death of my mom into a well-written, 250-word essay to even just maybe be considered for scholarships that might not even curb my college debt all that much in the long run.

“As of the end of 2016, outstanding student debt in the United States has grown to $1.31 trillion, now representing 10.4 percent of all household debt in America, surpassing both credit card and auto loan debt. And concerns continue to mount with delinquency rates on the rise and families frequently having to stretch out payments over decades,” Adam Wesolowski-Mantilla said in an article for The Northwestern Business Review.

Not going into higher education has never really been an option for my three sisters and I. Right now, I’m watching my older sister go through college and deal with her bill. In her chosen line of work, not only is college seen as a must, but graduate school is as well, so she will be adding another four years to her student loans. She has decided to take a gap year following her graduation in the coming spring because she needs time to save up and find a school where she can get enough scholarship money to attend.

“These days, the average cost for a year at a four-year college ranges from $9,410 for in-state public tuition to $32,410 for private. Neither of those figures include room and board. But, in general and at many specific places, costs are far higher: just looking at a few of the colleges surveyed by Time over the years, Vassar these days costs $52,320 for a year’s tuition, and Bates is $64,500 for tuition, room and board and fees,” Lily Rothman said in her article for Time magazine. “So the worry over rising tuition may be nothing new, but the scale of those worries is.”

American students are spending almost twice as much as students in other developed nations. “The U.S. is in a class of its own. Spending per student is exorbitant, and it has virtually no relationship to the value that students could possibly get in exchange,” Andreas Schleicher in an interview for The Atlantic.

With prices like those and salaries not rising to compensate, I almost have to laugh when people ask me if I’m excited to get out there and party once I’m away for school. I have one chance at university, and I will be depending on all of the scholarships that I can get, and it’s probably safe to say that most or all of them will be allowed only if I maintain a certain GPA, so I don’t really see a life of partying fitting into my college plan.

To quote Lin-Manuel Miranda, “I am not throwing away my shot,” even if it means falling into the “poor kid stick in the mud who always has their nose in a book” trope.

KENZIE POWER is a senior at Ottawa High School. To contact her, email Assistant Editor Julie Barichello at

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