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Barbara Whelehan writes Boomer Bucks for Bankrate.com

College costs keep climbing

The College Board just came out with its annual report, "Trends in College Pricing." Ready? Brace yourself:

  • Average tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities in the current academic year are $5,836, up 6.3 percent from 2005-2006. 
  • The same fees at private four-year schools rose 5.9 percent from the previous year, for an average price tag of $22,218.
  • Room and board at both public and private schools increased about 5 percent.
  • Total costs for the 2006-2007 academic year, including tuition and fees plus room and board, average $12,796 at public schools; $30,367 at private schools. That doesn't include books and supplies, transportation costs or other necessary expenses such as pizza.

No problem. You've got it covered, right?

Parents blow off college savings
Well, a recent survey of nearly 1,400 parents and 200 financial aid administrators indicates otherwise. In fact, the press release,

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issued by asset management firm AllianceBernstein, which sponsored the survey, exudes a distinct "shame-on-you" tone, designed, I think, to humiliate parents. It begins thusly: "Many families' college savings efforts are coming up short as parents spend freely, significantly overestimate the amount of financial aid their family will receive and count on debt to finance their children's undergraduate educations."

Here's the shame-on-you part:

"Of those (parents) who intend to fund at least some of their children's higher education, most have saved less money for their children's college costs in the past year than they have spent on entertainment, discretionary purchases or both."

How our money disappears:

Doesn't that make you feel bad? We spend more on flat-screen plasma TVs than on helping our kids develop their full potential.

Yeah, but wait a minute!
We're not perfect human beings, but the idea of having to sock away $99,000 so that a 5-year-old will have enough to get through public university or $236,000 for private school is daunting. Even for a college-bound 17-year-old who plans to matriculate next year at State U., we should have set aside $55,000, or about $131,000 to pay for private school.

But, it's not our fault that the financial goal for college is a moving target that continually forces us to aim higher. Here's the big question: What's behind these skyrocketing college costs?

Next: "... this is one of the most expensive investments we make"
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