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Sunday, May 22, 2011

high college tution: does it pay?


We've got three teens in the house. We are staring down the barrell of a financial shotgun called college tuition.

A few weeks ago we were stunned to learn from a friend whose high school senior got accepted into UC Berkley for the fall that the annual cost of tuition, room, board, books, etc. would be $50K. No financial aid packages available. California would prefer to take a check in full from it's out of state students.

Blew my mind. I knew the Ivy schools would run that high. Didn't expect this from a state university, albeit out of state.

Compare $50K a year to our close-by state university about 30 minutes down the road: less than $20K. Begs this question, does a college diploma that costs $120K more pay off? Even more than that if you add in the interest on student loans. And most kids these days do get loans.

But really, does a kid who graduates from a nationally recognized school experience better financial success?

Something of an answer was in our local paper today. A study by economists Dale & Krueger found that,

"Once you control for aptitude, career earnings don't vary based on the college attended: if you are smart enough to get into a brand-name private university, you'll do just fine going to a state college. What will determine your success will be your aptitude and your work ethic, not the name on your diploma."

So kids? I'd much rather have a $20K t-shirt. No, really.

You can read more on financial lessons for high school grads, here.

12 comments:

Jenn @ Youknow...that Blog? said...

Holy. Crap.

yogurt said...

Jenn @ Youknow -- I think those were my exact words when I heard Berkeley's price tag.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I'm not surprised. It really depends on what the kid wants to do I think--for some occupations that Berkley diploma might be a golden ticket. What I tell people though, is that if you're kid worked hard enough to get into Berkley, take a scholarship from a lower tier private school and spend the money on grad school at Berkley.

Interestingly, if the kid had gotten into Harvard he/she would only be paying about $20,000 a year (unless the parents make over 250K). In my opinion, people do not look hard enough at private institutions.

Okay, this seems more look a blog post than a comment--look for all my thoughts on Monday's blog.

Lee said...

"What I tell people though, is that if you're kid worked hard enough to get into Berkley, take a scholarship from a lower tier private school and spend the money on grad school at Berkley."

This is good advice. Although, for some kids it's sometimes a positive rite of passage experience to go away to school, i.e., to establish some independence from their family of origin. Doesn't necessarily mean they have to go out of state. Maybe two hours away...

smalltownmom said...

I would highly recommend the junior college system, too. Many of my friends' children (children of PhDs for example) have spent two years at a junior college, then transferred, and in all cases have been very positive about the experience. We're glad our elder son chose that route.

Red Shoes said...

I teach in the university system here in Mississippi... Financially, I have a very difficult time NOT recommending parents to send their children to a good community (junior) college for the first two years... same course content, for the most part; a HELL of a lot less expensive.

The #2 executive at UPS (Brown) graduated from our university. He obviously had to complete for his advancement with UPS against much 'higher powered' degrees than the one he had... experience and ability was the edge.

I like Jenn's advice...

If you had posted that you had three young children at home and you were looking ahead to college costs, I would have some advice for you...

~shoes~

sandy said...

"spend the money on grad school at Berkley"

I agree with you on this, Jenn. If there's grad school potential, it's mainly important to get good grades in undergrad and choose a well known graduate program.

hokgardner said...

We've been telling our girls to expect to go to a state school since the time they knew what college was. Either that or hope for lots of scholarships.

Aunt Snow said...

We have just completed four years tuition, room and board for a private school in NYC - I can't even reveal the cost. We had saved enough for about 2 years, and took out loans for the rest.

I'm told by many academic advisers that the smart thing to do is go to Podunk State and then transfer to High and Mighty U in the third year. No one cares where you took your freshman and sophomore classes, and you still get the diploma from High and Might U. Admissions for transfer students with good grades is much easier, and even financial aid is available for high achievers.

That said, of course our kid would have none of it. He went to Expensive University and did GREAT. Now he's at Expensive Grad School, and who knows what's next.

Susan said...

Our daughter was accepted to an Ivy and it cost us about the same as our son at a California State University. The private schools are great about supporting their students.

The state schools in CA have been getting the budgets cut for years now and the only way to fund them anymore has been by raising tuition to the tune of about 400% in just the last couple of years!

dkuroiwa said...

ugh.
i'm just now at the point where we are worrying about our oldest getting into public high school (relatively free)....the test is a bitch and if he fails to 'make the grade', we are faced with private school (about 4 times the cost!!). that's some wicked pressure to put on a 13-year old....i think i'll hold off letting him know about university for awhile.....at least until I get over it.

Michele said...

Jenn@jugglinglife has some good points, although I don't think you can assume how much any college is going to give you, Harvard or any college. I work in the financial aid industry at a small private college outside of Boston. I have worked at every kind of college except the for profits. I have done community college aid, and aid at the selective private college and the state college. Aid is different at every college. The good or bad news is every college as of October this year is required to have a Net Price Calculator on their website. This should be designed to give a student an estimated idea of what their aid, and consequently their out of pocket costs would be to go to that college. A lot of assumptions have to be made - that you put in accurate info regarding GPA and SAT scores if asked for them. That you accurately represent your income and household information. But assuming you have been accurate, you will find out roughly what it will cost YOU to go to that college, based on current costs and awarding policies. Those are subject to change from year to year, but you will get an idea. Do some homework and then choose the college that best fits your student academically, socially and that you are willing and able to pay for by whatever means you choose.