Despite Economy, College Tuition Increases Continue

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Businesses learn to cut back when things are tough, even many local and state governments find a way to keep expenses in check, but when it comes to our nation’s colleges and universities, many are planning to raise tuition this fall as if it were 1999 all over again.

Piggy BankThis week, students attending the College of Charleston — a state school located in historic downtown Charleston, South Carolina — got the news that many dread: tuition costs for in-state students would be increasing by 7% for the upcoming academic year, maintaining the average tuition increase at that school over the past five years. Now costing $8988 annually with room & board, fees, books and related expenses extra, Charleston continues to advance a national trend whereby tuition increases are much higher than the annual cost of living increases.

While students at the College of Charleston and other South Carolina schools will have to bite the bullet if they want to remain in school, they certainly won’t be alone. Louisiana college students attending a state run institution will see their costs increase by an average of five percent while tuition at Mississippi’s eight state run schools will increase by 3.5 to 5.1%. Indeed, according to the College Board, published tuition rates increased by 6.4% for the 2008-2009 academic year with a similar national average increase expected for 2009-2010.

So why are colleges and universities increasing their fees this year especially when the economic conditions are the toughest seen in more than a generation? That answer will vary depending on whom you speak with, but most colleges have significant overhead in the form of faculty and staff who keep the school going. Contractual agreements mean that professors need to be well compensated or schools could lose them to other universities. In addition, many schools are continually improving or upgrading facilities, a cost which is partially passed on to students.

Don’t Pay The Published Price!

Of course, one thing that is lost in all of this is what students actually pay for their education. Costs may increase annually, but for some students they simply do not pay the sticker price, far from it too. For students with scholarships or some other form of aid, those funds are subtracted from the tuition costs, leaving them with a much lower financial burden. This year, perhaps more than ever before, students should make sure that whatever aid is available to them is taken, being careful to reapply for aid or scholarships as needed.

College costs are through the roof but with student aid, funds saved for college and the careful selection of Stafford and/or private student loans, college can be affordable without excessively burdening students for many years post college.

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Categories: College Budgeting