By Cody Ross, Guest Contributor
As increasing numbers of Americans attend college, student-loan debt has become a heavier burden on students and graduates. Incurring debt to pay for school has caused graduates to greatly restrict their budgets and decrease their spending in the marketplace.
This cannot be a positive outcome for the state’s economy. With over $1 trillion of student loan debt in the U.S., there is a vast amount of resources being allocated toward education, although there are much more affordable alternatives, such as the Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program (TABP, formerly known as the “Texas $10,000 Degree,” an initiative inspired by then-Texas Governor Rick Perry’s 2011 State of the State Address).
Higher education cannot be free, but serious consideration must be given to reductions in college costs. Having completed my first year of undergraduate studies at Baylor University, I can relate directly to this issue. One of the significant benefits of attending a four-year university is the social experience and networking associated with college life, and all this takes place in new, lavish facilities built to attract the best students–actions akin to keeping up with the Joneses.
However, social life must come second to learning as costs spiral out of sight for most Americans. It is important that students and faculty preserve a focus on education instead of fancy amenities built in order to attract more gifted students.
In stark contrast to traditional, four-year institutions, new initiatives like the Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program strive to offer an equivalent education at a fraction of the cost. For roughly 9.1% of the cost of receiving an undergraduate education at Baylor, I can earn a college degree from my parents’ home through the TABP. Were I clever, I would negotiate for a share of the savings my parents would enjoy and leave home with $100,000 to start a business of my own. When considered in these terms, the Affordable Baccalaureate deserves a look.
There are definite downsides to the Affordable Baccalaureate: There are fewer networking opportunities; they offer little or no amenities; and courses and majors are extremely limited. Even with all the negatives associated with this college track, the cost and convenience of acquiring a degree still appeals to people unable to afford full time attendance at a university.
The rising cost of an undergraduate education has brought about innovative alternatives to the traditional college education. Higher education costs must be kept down by smarter spending and encouragement of alternative education tracks after high school.
Cody Ross is a freshman business major at Baylor University, focusing on Finance with a minor in Geology. He plans to enter the petroleum or electrical energy industry after graduate studies.