College Costs, Then and Now

It’s already September, and the kids are heading back to school.

I was a freshman in college about a decade ago at UC-Irvine, and at the time, tuition and fees for the academic school year was $4,555. It was not a number I stressed over as someone from a working class family, because with scholarships and financial aid available to me (thank you, Pell Grant!), that number was definitely manageable. Today, $4,555 wouldn’t be enough to cover tuition and fees for the fall quarter. Tuition and fees for UCI’s 2012-2013 academic school year is now $14,056, more than triple what I paid as a freshman. It’s certainly a number more students and families are stressing over today as colleges all across the country raise their costs.

We all should be worried as people who may want to send our own children to college one day, but also as people who are interested in our country’s economic growth and recovery. A report from the youth advocacy group Young Invincibles shows that students saddled with debt are unable to qualify for mortgages, and therefore unable to give a boost to the economy, which relies, in part, on recovery in the housing market, and people shedding their debt and spending money. This is obviously a big reason millennials aren’t buying homes like they were a decade ago (besides not wanting to recreate the highly toxic market that put us into a recession, of course). We all know there’s a problem, and we want to fix it. The problem is how and what we intend to do to fix it, and we won’t know what we’re going to do until after the November election.


7 Comments / Post A Comment

Megano! (#124)

Holy crap! I graduated a few years ago, and my tuition was around what you paid to about $6,000/year. And Ontario has the most expensive tuition in Canada.

Kate (#1,408)

@Megano! despite this, I hear a TON of pissing and moaning about rising tuition costs in Canada. (I’m an American and I immigrated to Canada seven years ago.) Like last year there was a huge uproar over the tuition at some schools going up like $300?

God sometimes it is so depressing. I turned down a career definingly awesome job last week because it would have been a massive pay drop. I am just heartbroken thinking about it still, I feel like if I didn’t have student loans to focus on trying to pay off, I would have just went for it.

sea ermine (#122)

@The Dauphine I know this isn’t useful now but in the future if you get an opportunity like that could you switch to income based loan repayment, at least for while you are working on that job? And then switch back when you get something higher paying later on?

I considered that, I work in the ‘nonprofit industry’ so really I should be on IBR anyway but it would make my payments higher which I can’t afford right now, despite the repayment term being much shorter. So it goes.

Mari D (#1,946)

What drives me batty is that you rarely read articles where the colleges explain WHY this is happening nor (more importantly) what they are doing to keep costs down. It’s as though the media are afraid to ASK.

So in my small way, I’ve decided to take charge: when my insanely over-priced alma mater calls to solicit donations, I ask them, first, what exactly are they are doing to keep prices down? Then, when the poor development dept intern sputters out some canned non-response, I suggest they hire a consulting firm like McKinsey to do analysis, and make recommendations where to cut the fat.

Once such a report is ready, I ask that they send it to me for review. THEN and only then, will I consider a donation.

Needless to say, I no longer get these types of calls.

frozenstrawberry (#1,827)

@Mari D McKinsey does reports like these, and their recommendations are often bleak for students: cutting financial aid and adding more $$$$ making grad programs (despite classroom space, professor/administrative availability, student experience, etc). I agree that there should be more investigations into why costs are rising, but I’m not convinced that McKinsey and other business consulting firms are the right people to do it. See: See (

If you are interested in donations, you should check to see if your donation can be used to specific funds–for example, my alma mater has the option to donate to unpaid internship stipends. I’d like to think my tiny donation is helping someone buy a metropass or maybe even lunch.

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