Understanding Rising College Costs

Staying abreast of the trends in higher education can help you save money on college. Here are some things to keep in mind, when applying to school.

Rising Tuition Costs

One of the most disturbing trends for prospective students and their families is the way tuition keeps rising every year. A recent study and report called Trends in College Spending 1998-2008: Where Does the Money Come From? Where Does It Go? What Does It Buy? had taken an in-depth look at the costs of college.

According to the study, families are bearing the brunt of college costs more than ever, for  a few reasons:

  • Declining Public Funding: A decline in Federal and state monies for education has caused schools to focus more on private funding, like endowments, gifts, and tuition as primary funding streams.
  • The Recent Recession: The recent economic downturn has decreased the amount that colleges can expect to get out of their investments and their endowment. Tuition is a stable and dependable source of income for the schools, and recent tuition hikes have occurred to make up for the volatility in other funding streams.

Unfortunately, the study also revealed some spending trends in colleges that are also causing increased tuition:

  • Spending is Moving Away From Education: During the past 10 years, colleges have shifted their spending focus from education and instruction-related expenses, to administration and other student support areas.
  • The Schools With the Most Students Spend the Least Per Student: The educational institutions that enroll the most students tend to spend the least amount of money per student. For example, community colleges, which had the biggest gain in enrollment during the period of the study, had the least increase in revenue.

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What You Can Do

The conclusions of the study don't add up to a pretty picture: colleges are changing their spending patterns, and students and their families are responsible for funding a greater portion of the school's activities. To save on tuition costs, keep these tips in mind:

  • Buying used textbooks can drastically reduce the materials costs that students face.
  • Attending a community college or a public university can be a huge way to save on tuition.
  • Living at home or living in cheaper housing can drastically reduce the costs of room and board.
  • Wages from work-study or cooperative work programs can often be used to decrease tuition.
  • Testing out of prerequisite courses through AP, IB, or the CLEP tests can be a way to save on college credits.

But, the most important thing to remember to decrease college costs is to exhaust all your funding sources, including Federal, state, and private aid resources. (studentaid.ed.gov)

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