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Financial worries for American students despite third level education being 'an economic necessity'

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Obama's administration attempt to grapple with the cost of education
Obama's administration attempt to grapple with the cost of education

As the new term looms, parents across the country are fretting about how they’re going to pay the college bills.

Attending university in America is insanely expensive. Even average colleges can cost well over $50,000 — the guts of €38,000 — per year for tuition, basic room and board.

So parents and students take out loans that in many cases last most of a lifetime.

Though we’re creeping out of recession, job prospects for new college graduates remain shaky.

So why the heck take on such huge debt?

For families with more than one kid, this is an especially crucial question — and higher education is a very sore subject here these days.

Even President Obama is jumping into the fray, vowing to push an initiative that would rank colleges on affordability — with those at the top getting priority status for more government aid.

“The current path we’re on is unsustainable,” he said during a campus tour last week. “Higher education should not be a luxury, it’s an economic necessity.”

Obama also advanced the idea that law schools should cut back from three years to two — saving students at least $50,000.

If you get near-perfect scores on the national college entrance exam, the SAT, colleges throw scholarships at you.

But most pupils don’t — and must figure out how they’re going to pay for a four-year degree.

Mortgages

The federal government offers loans with steep interest rates, and some parents even take out second mortgages to finance their child’s education.

How crazy is that?

Each of the 50 states administers their own university system, which is much more affordable compared to private schools.

For example, the State University of New York (SUNY) network charges $5,870 (€4,400) per year for residents — but excluding room and board.

The 64 SUNY campuses state-wide have got much more popular and competitive because they won’t bankrupt students and their families.

But, understandably, many teenagers are set on the bigger prizes of Harvard, Yale or Boston College — where the yearly tab is around $60,000.

Yes, the piece of paper from Harvard is worth much more than the equivalent from, say, SUNY Binghamton — but at what cost?

It is hugely difficult for young people to start their careers saddled with crushing debt, giving up chunks of their paychecks for loan payments

Even President Obama and his wife, Michelle, both law-school grads, couldn’t pay off their tuition until he became a senator in 2005.

But universities aren’t suddenly going to offer half-price deals, or slash the multimillion-dollar salaries of their presidents and top staff.

And many parents will continue to do whatever it takes to help their children pursue their dreams.

So the next time you hear people complaining about university fees in Ireland, spare a thought for hard-pressed students and families over here.

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