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Crunch The Cost: College affordability and its future

As costs continue to rise for Americans everywhere, many have begun to reconsider whether a university education is worth the long-term financial investment.

Three months have come and gone in 2023, but many people are still struggling to figure out life in the midst of post-pandemic economic struggles.

In fact, higher education has now become a part of the financial struggle that many families are having to deliberate with student debt cancellation looming.

Between nationwide staff shortages and food and gas prices rising, it's left many Americans with one glaring question: Is college affordable and worth pursuing in today's economy?

Laura Perna, who is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is an expert in the costs of college, universities, and educational policies and practices.

"People experienced COVID in all kinds of different ways with some unemployment, loss of earnings, health consequences," said Perna. "As we look at changes over time, in some of this, college costs have been increasing over time."

As costs increase, it pushes more students to turn to federal aid to pay for their education. That ends up meaning for students and their families, figuring out how to pay the costs of college becomes more difficult, according to Perna.

"I defended in 1997, to the effects of financial aid on students' choice of college and I never would've guessed that in many ways the challenges are much more harder now," said Perna.

Some of these costs before getting into college include application fees or fees for standardized testing, according to Perna. These costs being pushed to families has forced them to make tough major financial decisions for their future.

"For many students and their families, the only way they can pay those costs is to take on loans," explained Perna.

They're loans that have also been taken on by the federal government. However, President Joe Biden's plan to cancel $10,000 worth of debt for millions of borrowers in August 2022 has stalled after being blocked by two federal courts in early November of that same year. 

Despite the rising costs combined with economic factors, Perna said college can still be worth the investment.

"The engagement in learning and the opportunity to advance your understanding of different things. All of that can be really beneficial for people who are interested in that," said Perna.

However, the choice is ultimately yours.

We asked one Brazos Valley student who attends Blinn College about her thoughts on what to do to make your university education more affordable. She said that understanding the career path you want to go down and the way to get there will help you save money and get you on the path you want to go in life.

Ultimately, it's a necessary measure to take as more people work to stabilize  their own future despite the uncertain future of the U.S. economy.

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