Is College Getting Too Expensive?

There have been a lot of announcements about tuition hikes in the news recently. Since tuition is arguably the single largest expense when going to college, will this mean an undergraduate degree will become too expensive to obtain?

Last year the University of California voted to hike tuition fees for undergraduates by 32%, brining the total fee for undergraduates at UCLA and UC Berkeley to over $10,000 per academic year in 2010. There are already warning signs that tuition could more than double in the fall of 2011.

California is not the only state hiking their tuition fees. In Denver, undergraduate students can expect increases of 9% at Boulder, 7% at Colorado Springs and 9% at Denver.

Illinois is no different, with Eastern Illinois University students expected to pay 5.9% more in tuition, as well as University of Illinois, where the tuition rose by 9.5% for the 2010 school year and is scheduled to rise by an additional 6.9% in the fall.

Rhode Island will also see their fare share of tuition hikes, with University of Rhode Island tuition increasing by 9% and Rhode Island College by 4%.

Practically every state will see increases for the next academic year, but there is one school already considering a reversal. Southern Illinois University’s Carbondale campus and Edwardsville campuses recently agreed to hike tuition fees by 8.9% and 9.9% respectively, but have since agreed to put that decision on hold.

Many reasons have been given for the increase in tuition, from the state of the economy and budget cuts to increased enrollment and inflation. However between 1999-2009 the Consumer Price Index only rose 28.8%, while on average tuition has risen 69.3%.

Not surprisingly, the tuition hikes have sparked protests, such as a group of Rutgers University students that held protests inside the administration offices and refused to leave until the school president did something about the skyrocketing tuition.

No one can say that college has always been too expensive to attend, maybe not so much that it justifies skipping college, because remember, on average, a college graduate will make about 75% more a year than someone who only has a high school diploma. However the increased tuition does make it harder for students to choose a school when affordability and the burden of long-term debt weigh in.

Even more troubleing to the rasining cost of college, is the widening gap between the cost of college and the financial aid to pay for it.  Here you will see students in Missouri are increasingly required to find more out of pocket money to fund their education requring students to choose a school based on what they can afford instead of where they want to attend.

To make things a little easier for students, Consumers Digest will be publishing the Top 100 College Values in their upcoming June 2011 issue, where 2,000 schools were surveyed and 100 were chosen. The 100 are comprised of 50 public universities and 25 private institutions and 25 liberal-arts colleges.

“Our analysis is designed to help families make an informed decision that puts their hard-earned money to the best use,” says Randy Weber, publisher of Consumers Digest.

Consumers Digest found that average annual tuition at public universities and colleges is $26,344, while private institutions can be up to $47,156. Financial aid wasn’t factored into their rankings because of the inconsistencies in the way colleges distribute it.

There are ways to help reduce the cost of obtaining a degree, from choosing a college that better suits your budget to obtaining financial aid and private scholarships. In the end the choice of obtaining a college degree is yours, but as Michael McPherson, an economist who runs the Spencer Foundation in Chicago, which finances education research, put it, “College can’t guarantee anybody a good life, but it sure ups the odds substantially.”

Comments (3)

  1. Josh

    Education is expensive. Once upon a time, only the elites got educated – even at the primary school level. It might be that we are returning – at least partially – toward that imbalance.

  2. Jeff Cohen

    @Josh- kind of a bleak way of looking at it, but an interesting point!

  3. rob

    At 30 thousand a year. You could take the $120,000 for the 4 year degree and buy a house. Then just find a non degree job and probably be better off. The problem with that high of a cost for a degree is that it makes it very hard to pay off. You would need to make a real high salary to warrant that type of prices for school. With the economy the way it is that is a huge gamble. Also, with the outsourcing of jobs and lowering of salaries we have seen lately. It looks even worse. Be very careful what you pick your degree to be and make sure the jobs you can get look like they will pay enough to justify college.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *