As many of you probably already know, the average cost of college in the United States has skyrocketed over the last couple of decades. In a 20-year time frame (according to educationdata.org), the average price per year has tripled and is now roughly $35,720. That is $142,880 for a 4-year degree!
Why have college costs ballooned so much? What can parents and students do to prepare for this financial burden?
College Tuition Is On The Rise, But Why Is It So High?
College costs have sprinted forward like a track and field star. Why has the cost to educate your child increased so dramatically?
A Few Theories:
- Everyone Wants To Go: This is a classic supply and demand scenario. If more and more students want to attend college, it is only logical that the universities will increase prices. In 2016 (according to the Pew Research Center), 40% of employed millennials (ages 25 to 29) had at least a bachelor’s degree. Compare that to 32% of Gen Xers in 2000, 26% of Boomers in 1985, and 16% of the Silent Generation in 1964.
- Increased Federal Student Aid For Students: Some would argue that the increase in federal student loan aid has actually increased college costs. As the federal government lends out more and more money, it gives the universities the ability to raise prices over time. Simply, there is just more money available to students that they can use to pay college tuition.
- Lack of State Funding To Universities: Since the economic downturn in 2008, many states have decreased their contributions to their public universities. As a result, universities are incentivized to pass the increased costs on to their students. And the cycle continues!
Want to see how much school you can afford? Find out with your free college money report.
5 Hidden Costs Making College Even More Expensive
You may have noticed that you can’t really control what these colleges charge for tuition. When it comes to the total cost of college, tuition bills are just the beginning.
Here are five costs that you can control.
Students Don’t Graduate In 4 Years.
The average 4-year graduation rate at public universities is about 33%. In fact, 58% of students graduate in 6 years! The numbers are a bit higher for private schools (53% and 65% respectively) but not exactly comforting. If you want to drive down the cost of college, make sure your child avoids the victory lap (or two).
Transportation Is Costly
Does your child have a car? If so, who pays for gas, insurance, maintenance, parking passes, etc.? If they choose to go to a school that is further away, do you plan on paying for plane tickets home? Will they be using Uber or Lyft? You are definitely going to want to factor in transportation costs to the overall college cost.
While technology costs may seem obvious, they tend to be vastly overlooked.
- Internet Service
- Phone Bill
If your child is like most, they are going to have some fun at college. Have you considered these costs?
- Dining out
- Greek life dues
- Spring break trips
- Football tickets/sporting events
These programs are growing in popularity—especially as COVID-19 restrictions are lifting. If you’re not careful, sending your child overseas for a semester could drastically increase your overall costs and even push their graduation date back.
4 Tips To Save Smarter
Now that you are sufficiently terrified of the potential costs of college, it would probably be a good time to review what you can do about it.
Shop For College Smart
Not every family has unlimited resources to send their child to college. Do your best to make affordable (not trendy) choices. For example, you may opt for an in-state public university as opposed to an out-of-state institution.
According to College Tuition Compare, the in-state tuition and fees for the University of Kansas in 2021 are roughly $11,045. Compare that to the out-of-state sticker price of $25,007! Is the school in the state next door really worth an additional $14,000 per year?
Make A Plan Early
As a parent saving for college, the most significant advantage you have is time. The earlier you start, the easier it is to achieve your college funding goals.
Let’s say you started saving for college when your child was 1 year old and saved $500/month for the next 17 years. Assuming an annual rate of return of 5%, you would have over $160,000 saved for college.
If you started just 2 years later and saved for 15 years, you would have just under $134,000. That is $26,000 less saved for college that only saved you $12,000 in contributions.
Boost 529 Contributions
529 plans are an excellent vehicle for college savings. They have many advantages.
- They grow tax-free. Once you contribute money to the plan, you will not owe taxes on any gains in the account.
- They qualify for tax-free withdrawals. Assuming you use the money for higher education costs, you will not be taxed on any distributions.
- They qualify for state income tax deductions (sometimes). In Kansas, you can deduct $3,000 per year per beneficiary from your state income tax return. That number jumps to $6,000 for married couples filing jointly. Check out this list from finaid for a state-by-state breakdown.
- You can use the funds in multiple states. For example, a 529 plan from Kansas can be used to pay tuition for a college in Michigan.
Automate Monthly Investing
Once you have a monthly savings plan in place, automate it! Don’t trust yourself to manually contribute every month. Life events will happen, and you will inevitably find an excuse not to contribute (or simply forget). You can set up automatic withdrawals from your bank account directly to your 529 plan or other college savings vehicle.
Create a College Plan You Can Count On
As you can see, there is a lot about college costs that you can’t control and quite a bit that you can.
At Chladek Wealth, we understand how overwhelming it can be to prioritize college savings and put together an optimal strategy that incorporates your other goals. Schedule some time with us today and see how we can help.
The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes and should not be construed as specific investment, financial planning, tax, accounting, or legal advice. Please consult with a professional advisor before taking any action based on the contents of this article. All investment and financial planning strategies involve risk of loss that you should be prepared to bear. We cannot guarantee any investment performance whatsoever, and past performance is not indicative of potential future returns.