AUSTIN (KXAN) — Parents and students planning for college—and how to pay for it—have a lot to consider.
There are the programs offered by each school. There’s location. And, arguably most important, there’s the cost.
Austin Community College says each year, the cost of tuition for colleges and universities nationwide goes up around 6 percent. Ryan Thomson of College Funding Specialists says that’s been the case for at least two decades.
“It’s more than doubling, outpacing inflation, so it’s definitely a problem that isn’t getting better,” Thomson said.
Thomson says the cost of college is overwhelming families. Not just in what they pay, but also when they’re researching what schools to consider.
“I just think a lot of people shut down because of the sticker shock. They hear all this stuff about, ‘oh, my gosh – a certain school is going to cost $60,000 a year,'” Thomson said, who helps guide families through the often stressful process of planning for paying for college.
Thomson says many families see the cost of state and private universities and just give up on certain schools.
“A lot of those schools have tons and tons of money and it might not cost a penny more to go to TCU, or Baylor, or Saint Edwards, or South Western, or Trinity, or SMU, or Rice, or schools like that than to even go to a local community college when you factor in the aid and everything that’s offered,” he said.
Austin Community College’s Jason Briseno says nationwide enrollment in community colleges is down. He says that’s not because more students are choosing to go to 4-year institutions. Instead, Briseno says community college enrollment is more closely tied to the health of the economy. The better the economy, the fewer people enroll at community colleges.
More parents in Central Texas are enrolling their students into dual-credit programs to save money. Students in those programs are earning an associate’s degree while in high school for free.
At ACC the fall of 2010 showed more than 4,200 students enrolled into Dual Credit. Last fall, that number was 5,500.
In 2012, 175 students enrolled into Early College High School. That number rose in 2016 to just less than 700 students.
As for families worried they’re being priced out of college, Briseno says it’s best to reach out to each school’s financial aid office before determining the options for their students.
“The money is there for the students who are willing to look, but they have to be really on top of it.”
Thomson and College Funding Specialists are hosting a free college planning workshop at the Cedar Park Public Library located at 550 Discovery Blvd. in Cedar Park. The workshop runs from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
According to a report from LendEDU, a typical student in Texas racks up $26,236 in debt by the time they finish higher education. The nationwide average is $27,975 per student. Baylor University has the highest per-borrower average, the report finds, at $44,540. Texas Southern University ranks second with an average of $44,540; and at $39,883, St. Mary’s University is third on the list of highest average debt in Texas.