Special Report: The high cost of learning

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POSTED: Friday, February 7, 2014 - 1:57am

UPDATED: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - 11:28am

"Without a doubt the cost of higher education has continued to increase."

Some say a college degree is a necessity in this day-and-age to enter the competitive job market. However, the price you pay for that education could leave you in debt for decades. That coveted college degree is something many students strive for and some parent's dread, after seeing how much it's going to cost. Dr. Juan Mejia, Vice President of student affairs at Tyler Junior College tells KETK News, "Without a doubt the cost of higher education has continued to increase."

For example, for public 2-year-community schools, like TJC, the cost of tuition has increased 36 percent over the last 10 years, according to the College Board, and 59 percent for public 4-year-Universities, like the University of Texas at Tyler. "At community college here, if you look at Tyler junior college specifically you'll see tuition be at around a 1 thousand dollar range,” Dr. Mejia said. One thousand dollars---that figure sounds reasonable; but let's not forget that's only for one full-time student, for one semester, and that doesn't include books, supplies, transportation, and other living expenses. The average cost of tuition to attend a two year community college is $2,346 dollars. The average cost of books is one thousand dollars per year, and then you add the cost for all other living expenses. But, Dr. Mejia said forking over the dough for that degree these days is a must, "While in the past maybe a college degree wasn't as essential, in today's time and age it is extremely vital for any person to have a completed degree, a college degree." But, that ‘must-have’ college degree could leave you in debt for decades. The cost of higher education has increased overall more than one thousand percent in the last 30 years. The economy contributing to that hike in cost, and the state’s slashing funding for higher education.

Dewayne Pierce graduated from the University of Texas at Tyler in the 1980’s with his undergraduate degree before going on to get his masters. "I started at UT Tyler in 1979 when they were just switching over from TEU to UT" DeWayne says, back then the cost was a fraction of what it is now. "A thousand dollars would pay just about everything, tuition, books just about everything. We didn't have the fee's you have now." Dewayne is now helping to put his son Daniel though college UT Tyler, and he says he has permanent sticker shock on the price tags now, compared to when he was there. "Just last semester he bought at book that was 300 dollars. My most expensive book ever was 50 dollars." DeWayne said.

His son Daniel wanted to follow his father’s footsteps but, he says it's hard to keep up. "This year I’m taking about 15 hours, and the cost is just over 36 hundred." and that's just tuition for Daniel. That doesn’t include the 600 dollars a month he pays for rent, and the hundreds of dollars spent on books per semester. Daniel tells KETK News, “It's doable but it's financially it’s starting to become a burden."

Daniel's dreams to go to UT Austin were drowned by the fear of swimming in debt, so he decided to stay close to home, "Making that transition between high school and college, money started to become a big factor, a large factor, in fact the deciding factor."

However, the cost of college for East Texas students can be alleviated if you know where to look. Mary Lynn Smith from the East Texas Communities foundation said, "We like to give our money away. So we welcome anyone who is eligible to apply for all of our Scholarships.” The East Texas Communities Foundation has been providing millions of dollars’ worth of scholarships to East Texas students since 1989. "Last year we awarded close to a hundred scholarships to a hundred individuals,” Smith said.

But for local students, Smith says, it's not about going for the big scholarships. It’s about piling on the smaller ones, “Students tend to apply for the bigger scholarships, and then they skip the smaller amounts, but no one would turn down a 500 bill that was handed to them, so I think every scholarship

And it takes work! This is part of the problem for students. "The hardest part is getting started," Smith said, but after the paperwork is over, that award is invaluable, “the benefit of a scholarship is as opposed to loans you don't have to pay them back." Smith said. Although the cost of college cannot be avoided, it's up to the student to put in the work to make their degree priceless.

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High school students are left with a disillusion that once a degree is completed, they will undoubtedly find a job. College measures more than ever a person's work ethic. I believe that college is not for every one; we, as a society, should not expect every one go but learn a trade. In other countries, most students are required to take an exam whether or not (based on scores) if they are eligible for college or encouraged to learn a trade. I blame this downturn completely upon on greed.

The universities know this and DONT CARE so long as the government pays for it. They are on the dole too. PEL grants. Thousands and thousands of dollars for a degree with a job market like that in Tyler universities and junior college that don't pay very well. You have to leave Tyler to find a better paying job. I am watching people right now with RN degrees struggling to make a living.

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