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Rising tuition frustrates students

Californians aren't the only ones saddled with higher college costs.

By Karen Datko Nov 20, 2009 6:42PM

A 32% increase in tuition approved by the University of California regents is being met with student protests -- and arrests -- throughout the system.


It’s the most stunning development we've yet seen as many states, struggling with sagging revenues, continue to cut funding for higher ed. Consider this: State support  per student in the UC system is half what it was in 1990, a university official said.

We can’t blame students for being upset, considering what college will cost in the UC system. The Los Angeles Times reports:

The fee hike of $2,500, or 32%, will come in two steps by next fall. That would bring the basic UC education fees to about $10,300, plus about another $1,000 for campus-based charges, for a total that would be about triple the UC cost a decade ago. Room, board and books can add another $16,000.

(Luckily, about 30% of UC students -- 53,000 -- are eligible for free tuition because of limited income, according to, a fact that UC officials acknowledged they’ve done a poor job of publicizing. Students, get thee to the financial aid office.)


Students also face tough times in Michigan, where the Legislature has eliminated funding for Promise and several other state scholarship programs, The Detroit News reports. Some schools will try to make up the difference with economic stimulus funds, and other alternatives are being discussed.


In such situations, students nearing graduation are pretty well stuck, unless they qualify for more financial aid. But families with college-bound students have time to plan for an uncertain future:

  • Save more, which is increasingly difficult. A recent Fidelity Investments survey found that parents think they can cover only 11% of college costs, down from 15% last year. “More parents (43% this year compared with 35% in 2008) say they will have to delay retirement to pay for college,” Humberto Cruz wrote in The Boston Globe. The same survey found that 90% of high school seniors surveyed said they expect to pick up some of the burden by saving more or earning more money.
  • Consider community college, but students may have to wait in line. The New York Times reported about a two-year school that’s holding classes after midnight to handle a student overload. “Similar booms have forced many of the nation’s 1,200 community colleges to add makeshift parking lots, rent extra space and keep thousands of students on waiting lists this fall,” it said.
  • Thoroughly explore financial aid. Nationwide, only a third of college students and their families pay the full freight for tuition because scholarships are more available than they’ve been in the past, Sandy Baum, an economist at the College Board, told The New York Times.

In fact, Baum told the Times that, on average, students and their families are actually paying less now than they did five years ago even though college costs have climbed steadily.

Baum said:

The average grant aid for full-time public two-year college students is more than enough to pay the $2,544 published tuition price. So the average net tuition price at these schools is actually zero. At public four-year colleges the average net price is about $1,600 (compared with a list price of $7,020). At private four-year colleges, it’s about $11,900, compared with a list tuition price of $26,273.

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