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Rethinking the Benefits of an Elite College Education

What are the real benefits of attending an Ivy League college? Some families make the sacrifice to enjoy the bragging rights associated with sending a student to such a prestigious university. And then there is the perceived advantage in employment opportunities. While it may be pointed out that it is your social network that can land your first job out of college, this is not always the case.

More and more families, in today’s tough economic times, are deciding that the benefits gained from an expensive college education may not be worth the extra price tag compared to a cheaper education at a state college. Increasingly, families are ruling out debt as a way to finance college. Students are expected to carry more of the financial burden of their college education. Financial aid applications are on the increase. Work-study programs are more popular than ever.

Families today are making sacrifices even for the cheaper state college education. The cost of college textbooks alone can require some tight budgeting on the part of the families. Many families are putting off home remodeling, vacations and dining out frequently in their efforts to have enough money to pay for their children’s college education. Many more students need jobs to finish their university years. Today’s strict economic environment is affecting many more families and anyone would have believed a year ago.

College savings plans set up years ago are turning out to not be enough for today’s expensive college educations. Some family traditions are dying, as many families have given up their dream of having their children attend the same university that the parents did. The criteria for choosing a college have completely changed. This is turning out to be emotionally draining for many families.

Some families have been able to see the bright side of all of this. Parents and future students are sitting down together, analyzing data and making family decisions. Children are learning to become informed consumers and are able to choose the best value as they consider their options for higher education.

Not too long ago, families were willing to give everything up for the education of their children. But this has been changing drastically, even in the past year. Families are much more aware of price and value. A recent survey reveals that parents are becoming more concerned about how to pay for tuition, and students have increased in their doubts about the economic value of a degree. Families are not as willing to dip into retirement savings in such a shaky economy, and this is causing great changes in the way families view expensive higher education.

Once the gold standard of success, a degree from an elite college is out of reach of more and more families these days. And now that people are becoming more reluctant to fund an expensive college education, this reluctance is likely to carry forward into the time when our economy improves. College costs have soared due to easy credit, cheap home equity loans and growth in savings. These three economic factors do not currently exist. The wages of recent graduates have not kept up with the pace of soaring costs of higher education. A recent report reveals that public four-year universities have increased 84% in costs over the past decade. Private college expenses actually increased less, with only a 67% increase.

A recent study also shows that families are taking out fewer loans for university expenses. More middle-class students are attending state schools and more at lower income students enroll at community college. This trend is likely to increase over the next year.


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