Tuition Trouble: Savings Plummet, Price Tags Soar

To hear The New York Times tell it on Sunday, it amounts to a brow-raising surprise that a government program, once seen as near guaranteed, is apparently coming up way short.

But what they found less newsworthy and buried deep within a big financial planning article in yesterday’s paper will really throw parents off their equilibrium. Forget swanky private schools—the price at many plain, fat-free vanilla state colleges is skyrocketing.

Sunday’s upside-down story was called “Prepaid College Savings Plans Might Not Cover All Costs.” Read it if you must, but the basic gist from the lead until nearly the end — was that state-sponsored investment fund programs that promised to cover the cost of state colleges and were assumed to be “fail-safe,” are shuttering, hiking fees and otherwise hitting the skids. But unless you naturally assume government programs are made of forged steel, this is not exactly man bites dog.

What should pop out and make every parent's eyebrows do calisthenics is buried toward the end. Fellow parents, read it and weep: “the Florida Legislature for the first time has allowed public universities to raise tuition by up to 15 percent a year for the next five years, which is much greater than the 6.5 percent average the fund has counted on in the last two decades.”

State college tuitions potentially on the rise at a rate many times higher than the rate of inflation? Uh, that’s man bites dog, especially considering the fact that enrollment is bulging at state colleges across the nation, even as many states are going off the rails financially. That’s a toxic combination. And a big story, one that has no business being subordinated. Beware. And be aware.

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