College is expensive — so expensive, in fact, that most college students can’t even find enough money to fund it without a creditworthy co-signer. According to a recent survey from LendEDU and FundingU, only 45 percent of students were able to finance their college education on their own in the 2017-18 academic year.

Even worse, the survey found that 51 percent of students who couldn’t finance it dropped out, and nearly 40 percent of affected students reduced their course hours. Unsurprisingly, 79 percent of those struggling believe this could (or will)

delay their graduation date.

Costs have skyrocketed for both public and private colleges. The average cost of tuition and fees for a public four-year college is more than $9,400 per year (for in-state students), and the cost for a private four-year degree exceeds $32,000. The cost of tuition has grown twice as fast as other consumer goods over the last four decades.

Unfortunately, middle-class students tend to be hit the hardest by this phenomenon. Colleges tend to focus their financial aid dollars on low-income families, leaving middle-income students unable to meet the low-income cutoff for most financial aid programs at the college level and at the government level.

“The issue is that some colleges don’t want to pay for such investments by taking away aid from higher income students who enroll only because they are enticed with generous packages,” noted Arizona State University professor Jeffrey Selingo in an op-ed for the Washington Post. “For too many colleges, financial aid has become a recruitment and enrollment management tool rather than an affordability mechanism.”

Everyone is paying the price for this strategy, including taxpayers who foot the bill for financial aid. When students drop out, that investment essentially goes to waste and students are left scratching their heads about their future.

The cost of college is absurd. Unless administrators begin making some hard decisions about cutting costs, the middle class will ditch the college dream and find more lucrative paths to career success.

Brendan Pringle (@BrendanPringle) is a freelance journalist in California. He is a National Journalism Center graduate and formerly served as a development officer for Young America's Foundation at the Reagan Ranch.