College Costs Blow My Mind
Way back close to the Stone Age, I financed my own way through college. As a military veteran, I was
assisted by a monthly stipend of $170 a month from the G.I. Bill, coupled with free tuition thanks to my
veteran’s status at a state school. Even so, I was self-supporting and still had to work driving a taxi 30-35
hours a week to pay rent and upkeep, plus books and fees that weren’t covered by my veterans’
scholarship. All the while carrying a full course load. (I feel like I earned a PhD in multi-tasking.) During
that era, I knew of many past and present college students financing their own education. It was
grueling, but doable.
These days, it’s virtually impossible. Tuition and associated costs are simply too great. Here’s the latest
data from the Department of Education:
• In-state students pay an average $103,456 to attend a four-year college.
• Out-of-state students pay $174,884 on average for higher education.
• In the last 20 years, the cost of college has grown at a rate of 6.8% per year.
• A student will spend about $1,200 per year on textbooks.
Out of the $103,456 to attend an in-state school, $38,320 goes toward tuition and fees, and $65,136 on
additional expenses such as housing, food and other necessities. Try paying for that driving a taxi or some
comparable job part-time while in school and during breaks.
It’s much worse is your heart is set on attending a fancy private school. To graduate from a private university,
the average cost over four years is $215,796. You can buy a nice house for that much in many parts of the
Most colleges offer tuition reductions if you have great grades or some special talent, or if your family’s
income is low enough. The Department of Education calculates that about 60% of students receive some
form of scholarships, with an average tuition reduction of $7,923. That puts a dent in overall expense but
doesn’t come close to covering all.
The solution for most students is for either they or their parents to borrow money. The federal government
offers some loan programs while others may get funds from banks or other commercial lenders. Of course,
interest gets tacked on to these loans. If you borrow $50,000 at 5% you end up owing an additional $2,500 at
the end of a year’s time.
About two-thirds of college students apply for some sort of federal financial aid. That’s convenient, but it all
has to be paid back. A recent conversation with a niece informed me that her two college graduate sons are
in hock for a combined $250,000 in student loans, even though both have been out of school for more than a
During the Covid pandemic, the federal government suspended most student loan payments. However, that
pause ended last year. One recent study showed that 60% of 22 million federal loan borrowers were late
with payments since the end of the pause. About 19% of these former students owed $750 a month or more.
Some will spend almost all their lives paying back what’s owed.
That’s a big reason why it would be a very a wise choice for you to explore the trades.