It’s no secret that college tuition has exploded over the last 20 years. I’ve been writing on the topic of college affordability for education clients recently and ran across a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stat that said college tuition and fees were 125% higher in 2018 versus 2002. That’s $25,067 difference between when I started college and what today’s students are expected to afford!
And since it’s been… demurs gracefully…13 years since I graduated, it’s easy to feel out of touch with today’s college experience. Enrolling as a full-time student and working part-time, I had the ivy-covered walls experience of campus life where I lived in the dorms, took a broad range of liberal arts courses, studied abroad, and participated in Outdoors Club, which sparked a lifelong passion for nature adventures. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but this experience is no longer the norm.
Set aside the astronomical coin required to earn a degree. Would I even be admitted to my alma mater today? The average GPA required for Michigan State is 3.6…I graduated with a 3.5 because sports and band were often prioritized before…well let’s be real, trigonometry and AP World History. The average ACT score at Michigan State today is 26-29. I like to think I have other redeeming characteristics, but me and my 24 points reached an accord after gripping the envelope of test results in my car anxiously awaiting my future. I didn’t have a whole lot of volunteer experience. I didn’t start a nonprofit gathering backpack supplies for foster kids (like some of my classmates who went off to Yale or Stanford). I was a student-athlete and a percussionist who could write an adequate essay, and thus, I got into my state school options. I borrowed a Stafford loan (mostly to cover a semester abroad and my last year costs) and - after a grueling year of shopping my resume around the void - I landed a job at Google, where I paid off my student debt in 3 years.
My privilege set me squarely in the outlier category while many of my classmates struggled to get jobs in the 2008 recession. I lucked out on the roulette of higher education. Today, the stakes and the costs are even higher, with little guarantee of paying off student loan debt. That is especially so for students who are first in their families to attend college and/or students from low-income communities.
I still very much believe in the power of a college degree to transform a life. I just know that HOW we go to college has to change. Check out College Track’s social mobility report for their alumni outcomes for more.
What do you think, would you get into YOUR alma mater today?