Monday, September 01, 2014

Will this generation be first to send fewer into higher ed?

6/19/2013

Americans have saved $190 billion in 529 college savings plans. That’s an all-time high, but for many families, that won’t be nearly enough to pay for the rising cost of college tuition.

The Kansas Board of Regents was expected to approve tuition increases Wednesday at each of the state’s public Regents schools — the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Wichita State University, Fort Hays State University, Emporia State University and Pittsburg State University — to help offset significant cuts to the colleges’ dwindling investment from the state. Kansas lawmakers decided during their most recent budget session, which concluded June 2, to reduce the state’s contribution by 1½ percent. From a percentage point of view, that might not seem like a very big deal until one digs a little deeper to see the bottom line impact.

Americans have saved $190 billion in 529 college savings plans. That’s an all-time high, but for many families, that won’t be nearly enough to pay for the rising cost of college tuition.

The Kansas Board of Regents was expected to approve tuition increases Wednesday at each of the state’s public Regents schools — the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Wichita State University, Fort Hays State University, Emporia State University and Pittsburg State University — to help offset significant cuts to the colleges’ dwindling investment from the state. Kansas lawmakers decided during their most recent budget session, which concluded June 2, to reduce the state’s contribution by 1½ percent. From a percentage point of view, that might not seem like a very big deal until one digs a little deeper to see the bottom line impact.

The cuts also affect Washburn University and 25 community and technical colleges, which includes Ottawa’s Neosho County Community College. These changes not only impact the institutions and the communities they reside in, but they also have the potential to lower education levels and subsequently incomes throughout the state and can perpetuate joblessness.

Here’s how the numbers shake out:

Tuition increases will see a high of 8.8 percent at Emporia State University to a low of 3 percent for out-of-state veterinary medical students at Kansas State University. Those tuition increases are expected to generate an additional $34 million during the 2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The state’s two largest colleges can expect undergraduate tuition increases of 7 percent and 5 percent respectively at K-State and KU. Those are on top of increases all of the colleges implemented last year for the same reasons. Tuition inflation is alive and well, which makes it very difficult for Kansas families to save an adequate amount of money to cover the costs for college.

How much could parents of college-age children need to put their kids through college? It depends.

A public in-state college student could expect costs of $66,914 for a four-year education or $16,729 per year. Those costs nearly double for an out-of-state public university. Private colleges come at an even higher price of $135,118 for four years, or $33,780 per year, according to the state’s Learning Quest online college calculator. The costs are even higher once room and board are added into the equation. Community colleges come in at about $12,969 annually and offer the most affordable option for the most cost-conscious families — but it still makes sense to budget for those expenses.

Those who have yet to do their homework on college savings should start by using an online college cost estimator — such as collegesavings.org — to find out the optimum amount to start setting aside now for college funds. The later families start saving, the more that will be necessary to invest later to afford the ever-growing cost of college.

Bottom line, if parents haven’t started saving for college, there’s no time like the present to begin. Otherwise, a college or post-secondary education might well become out-of-reach for all except the privileged few.

— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher

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