As December 31 draws near, you’ll no doubt find your mailbox stuffed with solicitations from local and national charities hoping you’ll give just one more dollar to their cause -- more often than not a worthy one. Unless your name is Ebenezer Scrooge, you’re likely to feel more generous during the holiday season, and will donate extra time or money to your favorite charity. (Plus, the tax break you might get in a few months will be a nice added bonus.)
When you’re choosing among the many charities to give to this year, don’t forget about a special group of people who need some extra help, too: college students. The end of the semester doesn’t mean a break from tuition, and it’s never been more important to support students through college scholarships. Here’s why.
America needs more college graduates. Increasing the number of college-educated citizens remains essential to economic success, yet American students are achieving degrees at lower rates than other countries. By 2018, 60% of jobs in America will require some level of post-high school education, according to a study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. America needs to catch up, in order to prosper and compete in a global marketplace, today and in the future.
A college degree is no longer affordable. When President Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill of Rights into law in 1944, the cost of attending college averaged less than $100 per year, and generally kept pace with inflation for the next four decades. But over the last 20 years, tuition has skyrocketed faster than the cost of living, and many families are simply unable to keep up with the high cost of attending college.
Student debt is at an all-time high. Families continue to recognize the huge benefits of earning a college degree, but the expense of college is forcing many to take out tens of thousands of dollars in loans. America’s student loan debt now totals more than one trillion dollars, surpassing total credit card debt in the U.S. And students who want to avoid loan debt are juggling multiple jobs in order to pay for living expenses, books, and tuition, according to a 2013 report by The College Board.
Students can’t afford to finish. College dropout rates are at an all-time high; nearly 50% of postsecondary students do not complete their degree program. One big reason is that students can’t afford to pay tuition during their sophomore, junior and senior years – one-time scholarships help pay for their freshman year, but their absence leaves a gap in financial aid. (When you’re choosing a scholarship program to give to, make sure the scholarship is renewable, so the students can count on that tuition money every year they’re in college. One example of an excellent program to give to is the Scholarship America Dream Award [http://scholarshipamerica.org/dream_award.php], our multi-year, performance-based scholarship fund targeted toward completion.)
Those who do earn degrees are wealthier, healthier and happier. Despite the expensive price tag, earning a college degree remains one of the most lucrative investments a person can make -- individuals with higher levels of education find good jobs faster and earn more. And the benefits of graduating from college aren’t just financial: People who hold college degrees are more likely than others to receive health insurance and pension benefits from their employers, be more active citizens, lead healthier lifestyles, and move up the socioeconomic ladder, according to The College Board.
Never before have college degrees been more important. And never before have scholarships been more essential toward earning them. If your college education has paid off, consider passing it on this holiday season by donating to a private scholarship fund. You’ll help more students live better lives with less debt.