In countless promotional materials, our university is touted as a “good value” and a “smart affordable option,” but a Binghamton University education is hardly cheap. If anything, it’s overpriced. It doesn’t take a financial guru to conclude that if a student graduating with $80,000 in student loans is said to be getting a “bargain,” the American university system is inherently corrupt and in desperate need of reform.
At $22,543 a year (for in-state students), Binghamton is what any decent college should cost in the year 2014 if tuition rose in accordance with inflation. Yes, this is a “public ivy,” but given our ranking as the 97th best school in the country according to U.S. News & World Report, some international students would scoff at what prospective students are willing to pay to attend. Trinity College in Dublin, arguably one of the best universities in Europe, charges English students a mere €2,000, or 2,721 USD. Not all European universities carry this low price tag; in fact English students turned to Irish colleges in response to what many called “criminal” tuition hikes, with some universities charging an annual fee of €9000, about 12,000 USD.
While European students rightfully protest the rising cost of tuition, we placidly accept these absurd costs and try not to feel slighted by our peers cracking jokes about the quality of a SUNY education. The collective consciousness among the student body is that in the present our friends may carelessly Instagram photos of ivy-covered buildings and top-notch facilities, but in 20 years us SUNY kids will have the last laugh. The problem with this sort of sentiment is that an individual’s financial prosperity does not a functioning economy make.
None of us will be laughing when the best and brightest of our generation are left unable to save for retirement, purchase homes, or start families. Binghamton students may graduate with student loan debt, but our debt will be nothing in comparison to the crushing burden endured by some of our fellow Generation Yrs. A student at Duke University paying full tuition at the average rate of interest on student loans (between 5 and 8 percent) would end up paying back nearly half a million dollars. With the life expectancy for a U.S. citizen topping out at 80.1 years, Duke graduates would likely spend a third of their lives in abject poverty with little flexibility to make necessary investments in their futures.
When parents stave off retirement and their offspring are overwhelmed with student loans, the economy swings into unbalanced chaos and we will all pay the price. Despite the glaring inconsistency between the rise in college tuition costs and inflation, discontent among American students amounts to a dull murmur. It’s time to look beyond the field of sweatshirts bearing the name of respected institutions and pass legislation which limits the cost of secondary education. Several bills are in circulation to put a cap on interest rates, tuition costs, and to set rates based on post-graduation income rather than flat rate.
As college students, we must demand a comprehensive omnibus piece of legislation attacking this issue from all sides. Since I enrolled in Binghamton in 2011, tuition rose over $1000 with little to no response. Incoming freshmen class of 2018, do not allow yourselves to passively accept the same fate. It is our responsibility to keep the flagship SUNY relatively affordable. If we don’t speak up, no one will.