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The Cost of Higher Education

Yearly costs at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have topped $34,000 a year, while students at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., pay about $33,000. An education at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia costs approximately $32,000 a year, Tulane University in New Orleans is about $31,000, and students at Rice University in Houston hand over about $23,000 a year. Of course, not all colleges and universities cost as much as these prestigious institutions, but college these days is an expensive venture.

The cost of college has significantly outpaced inflation since the early 1970s. Nationally, the cost of college tuition has quadrupled since 1980.

Go Figure

Tuition at Utica College in Utica, New York, cost $4,014 for the 1980-1981 school year. The cost for the 1999-2000 year was $16,150. This kind of increase is not unusual on a national basis.

As you can imagine, and may well know firsthand, paying for a college education (not to mention two or three of them) can be a tremendous strain on a family's finances. The problem is that we realize how important college is to our kids' futures. Many of us consider college to be a necessity, not a luxury or an option.

Census Bureau data points out a clear link between education level and finances. Both male and female college graduates earn significantly more than high school graduates, and it's been shown that income rises faster among people who have higher education.

So how does the average family find the cash to send its kids to college, and still meet all its other expenses? If you've become extremely discouraged from reading the first part of this chapter, cheer up. Not all colleges are nudging at the $30,000 a year or over mark. There are still some educational bargains out there.

Community colleges come at a much lower cost—averaging roughly $3,000 a year. State-owned colleges and universities generally are affordable for state residents. And many schools offer financial aid to deserving students.

Even if you find a bargain, however, you'll face significant expenses. In addition to tuition, room, and meals, there are costs for books, fees, and transportation. Add to that the cost of phone cards, a microwave, computer, and one of those little refrigerators for the dorm room, and you've got yourself a bill that may look to you like the national debt.

So how do we go about paying for college? Let's have a look.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 40s and 50s © 2002 by Sarah Young Fisher and Susan Shelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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