College certainly isn’t cheap, and prices are rising fast. Statistics show that tuition and fees at public colleges and universities have increased roughly 130% over the past two decades!
When adjusted for inflation, the average annual cost to attend a four-year public university in 1988 was less than $3,000. In 2008, the price was approximately $6,500, and these figures don’t even include room and board, pointed out CNN Money.
It’s not uncommon for students to finance a majority of their college educations with student loans, which must be repaid with interest after leaving school—whether or not you graduate. Both federal student loans, which are guaranteed by the government, and private loans from banks and other lending institutions can add up quickly, resulting in high payments. The New York Times profiled recent college graduates who owed over $100,000 in student loans.
A degree does not guarantee a high-paying job—or any job at all, for that manner—so borrowing to attend school is a scary prospect that leads many families to start saving for college as soon as a child is born.
Despite rising prices and increased debt, more students are enrolling in college than ever before. With more people clamoring for grants and scholarships, “free” money for college is harder to get your hands on.
Even so, setting aside money to pay for school shouldn’t be a huge priority if your family doesn’t have an emergency fund set aside. The Huffington Post explains that financial experts recommend families have a savings account that contains at least six months of living expenses should a layoff, disability or even death occur.
Retirement savings are another obstacle for working adults. Many are dipping into their retirement funds to help their children pay for college, but most financial experts warn against this habit. Author and college consultant Dr. Bonnie Snyder points out that you’ll definitely have to stop working at some point in your life, but your kids could possibly decide not to attend college—making saving for impending retirement a better idea than stashing away money for a college education that may or may not happen.
No, this doesn’t mean that you should decide to completely wing it when your child is a high school senior filling out college applications. But it’s important to worry about everyday living as well as retirement in addition to college. If you’re unable to increase your income, one of the best ways to save money is to cut out unnecessary expenses like cable, dining out, designer clothes, and other items that are “wants” rather than “needs.”
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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