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The cost of college is skyrocketing. In the past 30 years, tuition has jumped 530% (roughly 6.4% per year). There are many reasons for these changes, but three of the biggest are:
· College administrator salaries have increased 9.8% in 10 years, at a time of stagnant wages for much of the country (including college professors).
· The technological revolution has made some parts of college cheaper, but it also means schools have to routinely update their office and classroom equipment. Students won’t come if schools don’t have the latest teaching tools.
· There’s been a boom in college construction, from top-of-the-line dorm rooms to student centers, sports complexes and theaters. One time campus luxuries are now de rigueur items (even at community colleges!).
You may not have much control over these factors, but you may be driving up your own cost of college unnecessarily.
Student’s Role in the High Cost of College
· Not getting a good deal. Students aren’t offered enough financial aid, and they don’t know how to appeal for more.
· Not preparing early enough. They start preparing for college too late and limit their options to receive additional aid from colleges.
· Not researching colleges or financial aid options. Students don’t know which colleges typically provide good financial aid, or more precisely, which colleges will offer them good financial aid.
· Not being credit worthy. This isn’t always a student problem, but it can be. Some government loans (Parent PLUS) as well as private loans and interest rates are awarded based on your credit score. Being creditworthy can lower your cost of college.
· Making too many demands. Students want the full “college experience.” Such demands are creating a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality among colleges, which offer the latest in gadgets, gizmos and games to keep students happy. You’re not just paying for it with student activity fees; the cost can be found in your tuition or room and board. Focus on colleges that put academics first.
Students as Smart Consumers
You can’t change the entire system, but you can change your own situation. Do more to get merit-based aid and improve your need-based situation (RSC specializes in this and has an entire department devoted to helping you maximize your need-based aid).
— The first thing you need to do: Research colleges. Find out where you’re a good fit academically. There are more than 4,000 colleges in this country; you need to keep looking until you find the 6 or 8 that serve you best.
— They may be in your back yard; they might be hundreds of miles away. Use RSC’s extensive college research tools to find the colleges that will give you the best financial aid.
— Also, cut your costs with accurate college cost estimates. Unfortunately, most college websites don’t offer these, but you can get them. Download the Your Total Cost of College pdf to see what an accurate estimate and breakdown of your expenses should look like.
You need to be a smart consumer. This doesn’t mean getting a dollar store version of a college education; it does mean getting the best value for your money.
Sign up for a FREE online workshop with RSC’s financial aid experts to find out how you can finish college without being tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
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