Good, Bad, Interesting News about College Expenses


Written by: Jon McGraw

Good news: Rising demand for trained, employable workers with relevant skills will not decrease for the foreseeable future! Traditionally, this has meant college as the primary post-secondary method of learning.

Bad news: Since 1990, Consumer Price Index components, including education, have risen between 50 to 300 percent. On the high side, the expense of sending a child to college has gone up 300% since 1990. The same holds true for adults who want to return to school and acquire new skills for the shifting global economy.

Interesting news: Beginning in early 2012, two bellwether universities, MIT and Harvard, began offering open online access to courses. One does not have to be an enrolled student at their physical campuses to participate, either. The program is designed to allow self-learners to participate in an organized and formalized environment with certification as the outcome. Make no mistake, certification does not equal a degree, but how long will it take for potential employers to realize the difference is more a matter of expense than knowledge and ability.

Opportunity: In the meantime, the message appears to be “start saving earlier and start saving more” for college expenses. In one case, a family we met with was faced with the daunting goal of paying for three undergraduate degrees, each from a different school. Rather than plug in standard estimates, we defined an inflation adjusted future cost for each target school, taking into consideration scholarship funds and financial assistance from grandparents. From there, the parents were able to execute a detailed strategy that would allow them to cover all the anticipated cost

Related: Applying for college and financial aid can be a daunting task, taking lots of time and energy. Here’s a short list of useful websites:

Applying for Federal Financial Aid or FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid):

Reviewing and comparing various colleges:

Just for fun – World College Rankings:

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