Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Where does it stop?

Pacer Notes

GOLDMANIt is an undeniable, harsh fact of reality that over the past few decades, the price of college has soared beyond anything previously imaginable.

Elite schools across the nation have been known to boast about enrolling the brightest and most devoted students. However, it now seems sheer intellect is not the sole requirement for attending these schools. Recently — and more than ever — money has become just as important.

This issue goes beyond the top-tier schools and students, of course. Many students throughout the country cannot afford to attend college at all.

I am not claiming that college did not previously cost good money. But over the past 20 years, the price of college has risen astronomically. Since 1995, the cost of attending a public university in the U.S. has increased by 296 percent, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Some may argue that this is a product of inflation. Yet according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of increase in the cost of atending universities nationwide has dramatically surpassed the general inflation rate. That means the cost of college has been spiraling up at a rate alarmingly faster than a family’s average amount of wealth.

As many seniors found out this year, the college process includes a lot more than simply figuring out where to apply. In the past, underclassman could realistically believe that their rigorous dedication to schoolwork would allow them to go wherever they pleased after graduation. The sky was the limit. But turn the clock forward a few years, and I can tell you that many students looking to attend college, both statewide and locally, have developed a new outlook on the process.

Students who were once hopeful of attending colleges across the nation have been met with the brutal reality that without the help of a substantial scholarship, out-of-state living can be immensely disproportionate to that of going to school in state.

“Last year, 57 percent of students, the highest percent on record, chose not to attend their first-choice school,” said Lucie Lapovsky, a contributing financial writer for Forbes. “Sixty-two percent said they could not afford to attend it, and 25 percent said their first-choice school did not provide them with any financial aid.”

This issue is abundantly clear at Lakeridge, where senior Daniel Farthing experienced this problem firsthand. After four rigorous years of high school, Farthing found himself in the 14 percent of students accepted to the University of California, Berkeley — his dream school. However, Farthing, like many students at Lakeridge and nationwide, has chosen not to attend his dream school for one very specific reason.

“Receiving my acceptance letter from Berkeley initially made me feel like it was worth it, and that my hard work had paid off,” he said. “However, coming from a single-parent household, the $60,000 price tag made attending unfeasible and simply not worth it.”

Other Lakeridge students have similar stories to tell. But the problem isn’t limited to those who want to attend top out-of-state colleges. Students who are looking to attend college in Oregon and possess all the right academic qualifications are oftentimes also unable to pursue that next level of education. Oftentimes, students have to face the burdensome decision of whether or not attending college outweighs the inevitable debt that follows.

For many once college-bound hopefuls, this can be the sole deal breaker that sways them away from attending. Beyond-qualified students who want to attend public colleges such as Portland State University are being asked to pay more than $20,000 a year for tuition, books and fees. Frequently, this cost exceeds half of a family’s total income, and that makes it difficult if not impossible for students who are able and prepared for college to attend.

They fall victim to colleges’ second entrance requirement, which is wealth.

While I am able to offer no immediate solutions, I write this as an observer and a participant who, like many other seniors over the past few years, had ideas about where I would be attending college change radically. It saddens me that colleges, now more disproportionately than ever, have discouraged qualified and willing students from attending on the basis of a financial situation.

With the price of attendance rising every year, one has to ask: When does this all stop?

Lakeridge High School senior Alex Goldman is one of two Pacer Notes columnists for The Review. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..