TMCnet Feature
December 03, 2019

Kent Bonacki Highlights Three Reasons Why Grants are Important for Students

Grants are essential to higher education in the United States. They provide an opportunity for young people to earn an education that they may not otherwise have been able to afford. Kent Bonacki is a Grant Writer and Researcher at the Park City School District in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has spent his career in the education sector and has witnessed firsthand the remarkable impact that grants have on the life of a student. Below, Kent Bonacki delves into the top three reasons why grants are more important than ever for students today.

1. The Cost of College is Increasing

The first reason why grants are so important for students in the United States is because the cost of college tuition is on the rise. In fact, according to Kent Bonacki, it has never cost as much to go to college as it does today. A Trends in College Pricing report confirmed these unprecedented rising figures, finding that public four-year college tuition and fees have increased over 5% annually above inflation. Similarly, public two-year colleges and private four-year colleges increased at a rate of 3% above inflation each year. Kent Bonacki asserts that this trend of rising tuition costs began in the 1980s and has only gotten worse since.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public universities cost the American student roughly $19,000 per year. This figure more than doubles when you’re talking about private colleges, with the average yearly tuition being $40,000. These startling numbers are even more astonishing when you consider the total cost over four years. When room and board is factored in, students in the United States can expect to pay a minimum of $100,000 for a four-year college education at a public university. When you compare these numbers to the cost of college back in 1989, you will find that the price of higher education has doubled, even with inflation considered.

To make matters worse, this increase in the price of college is happening without any increase in wages. Research has indicated that college costs are growing nearly eight times faster than wages. While the cost of university more than doubled between 1989 and 2016, median wages during this time period went from $54,000 to just $59,000.

Further, in addition to an increase in college tuition, other aspects of college life have seen an increase in cost too. Kent Bonacki shares that unless you plan on living at home and commuting to college, you can expect to pay more for your apartment, food, textbooks, and school supplies than the generation before you. Not only has the cost of student residences gone up, but so too has the real estate market at-large. This means that if you were considering off-campus housing and your college is in a city - especially a big one - you can expect your rent to be quite costly.

Overall, Kent Bonacki recognizes that the rising cost of college coupled with the minor increase in wages paints a grim picture of America. However, this is why he believes grants are more important than ever in 2019. Grants help alleviate the financial burdens that come along with attending university. They also provide an opportunity for young people to attend college even though they may come from a family who doesn’t have the means to pay for it out of pocket without incurring large amounts of student debt.

2. State Support for Students has Decreased

Following the 2008 recession, many states were forced to make significant cuts to their public service budgets. Unfortunately, higher education was affected. The result? Public, state-run universities were forced to increase their tuition even further, as well as limit their scholarship programs. Although the economy has improved since the economic crisis, some governments are wary of spending as much as they had in the past. This is where private grants come in, and why grants as a whole are so essential in the United States. Grants can be both public and private and even if your local, state, or the federal government has cut back on their grant programs, it is still possible for you to apply for and receive a grant from a private foundation. Kent Bonacki claims that private colleges, which typically have more money, generally offer higher amounts of grant funding to students. That said, the cost of tuition at private universities is also higher. However, Kent Bonacki urges lower income students not to be deterred by the cost of tuition as in some cases, these colleges award grants that cover the entire cost or a significant portion of it.

3. College Debt is on the Rise

Personal debt in the United States has never been higher, and a large portion of this debt is from college. Kent Bonacki asserts that just student debt has reached $1.5 trillion as of 2019. The Institute for College Access and Success estimates that each college graduate finishes their degree with an average of $29,000 worth of debt. Although generation X may not have been saddled with such debt, millennials certainly are. And as millennials get older and start to have children of their own, they begin to grapple with the question of how to continue paying off their own debt while also putting money into a college fund for their own kids. The result? Future generations will be forced to take out more student loans. This is due to the fact that the average young parent will be unable to provide as much financial support to their children because of their own student loan debts. Again, this is where grants come in. Although grants alone won’t be able to break this vicious loan-debt cycle, they can help provide more access to a college education and help a number of students to graduate debt-free or with a smaller debt than they would have otherwise accumulated.

Kent Bonacki concludes that between these three reasons, the increase in grants available for post-secondary students is very important to ensure that the student debt crisis in America does not become unmanageable.

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