What Do You Get For $142,532?

The recession is causing more people than ever to go to college.  But the cost of college is rising faster than inflation and faster than financial aid which is putting a college degree out of the reach for many.

According to a report from the College Board, tuition and fees at private 4-year schools rose 4.4% in the current school year to $26,273. Costs at public 4-year universities spiked over 6% for both in-state and out-of state students, to $7,020 and $18,548, respectively.

At the same time, the availability of financial aid isn’t keeping up with these climbing costs. Grant funding grew only 4.7% in the 2008-2009 academic year, the most recent for which data is available, which means that undergraduates’ out-of-pocket costs are higher than ever.  Because of higher unemployment and stagnant household incomes, is making it harder than ever to finance a degree.

The good news is that about two thirds of full time students receive financial aid that doesn’t need to be repaid. After taking grants into consideration, coupled with federal tax benefits, the net cost of college is much lower than the sticker price. On average, students at private schools are paying $11,900, while those attending public schools are spending about $1,600 out of pocket each year.  That still leaves a third of students paying full freight, and every undergrad is still contending with room and board costs that are also climbing, up 5.4% at public schools at 4.2% at private schools this year.

While college costs have gone up and donations and endowments have gone down, college fees have gone up faster than inflation putting colleges beyond the reach of too many.  Is it possible that universities are using grants and loans to students to raise their fees shifting their costs to the students who attend?  Just asking.