Opinion: Tuition Money Can’t Buy Happiness

It’s no secret that financial woes can be stressful. A recent Time article brings the issues of this common precept to light in citing a survey of stress in the United States conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA). The survey results indicate that although overall levels of stress in the United States are at their lowest in the past several years, stress about money is on the rise.

The APA found that parents and younger generations, especially among low-income families, suffer most from financial stressors, largely as a result of the lofty costs of higher education. An ambivalent job market amplifies this stress, as it renders college tuition a less secure investment than in previous decades. These findings are especially concerning given that one in five survey respondents reported an absence of emotional support systems in their lives.

Additionally, Huffington Post recently reported that depression among college freshmen is at an all time high, citing a correlation with increased use of social media. The report also emphasized a major cause of the problem being a lack of constructive outlets for students to relieve stress.

College is supposed to be the “best four years of a person’s life.” While this standard may seem impossibly idealistic, it should not be wholly unachievable for young people. College students are apparently given everything they need—friends, activities, resources—to be happy successful, without the worries and responsibilities of adult life. This period should be one in which individuals feel free to explore their own interests and passions, among those who care for and support their efforts.

Photo Courtesy of Tumblr

Photo Courtesy of Tumblr

Instead, students tend to be consumed by education’s costs—both to their bank accounts and to their mental health. Beyond the typical academic and social pressures loom more ominous financial pressures. In 2012, 71% of graduates from four-year colleges had incurred debt of more than $30,000 on average—these numbers are substantially higher than those in 2004 and 2008. Students feel the high pressure of paying off their debts and (as if the stress itself wasn’t enough) often make decisions that cause them to be unhappy.

Boston College students are not immune to these problems.

“[Students] spend many years after they graduate worrying about paying off these debts they have incurred. This leads many adults to pursue jobs they are not passionate about just because they pay the bills.” Zack Muzdakis, A&S ‘17, said. “[T]he costs for someone to attend school are way too high and...are directly related to the high stress lifestyle we live in America.”

Students may force themselves to study a field they hate because they believe it is their only key to financial stability. In more extreme cases, students may resort to destructive behavior such as excessive drinking or drugs as a way to handle their stresses.

“Honestly, I drink as a way to cope.” a student, who wished to remain anonymous, admitted.

The excessive cost of education adds significant undue stress to students and families alike. While an obvious solution to this problem would be for schools to reduce tuition prices, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon and would create a host of other issues. However, at the very least, universities should devote greater attention and resources to the issues of mental health plaguing their students to ensure that each individual is given an equal opportunity to thrive during college and in his or her post-grad pursuits.

Long Island native with Big City dreams. Perpetual coffee drinker and notorious Plexaholic. CSOM for the money; LSOE for the soul.