The rising cost of college

For many families who are dealing with sending a youngster off to college for the first time, the time between April 15 and May 15 can be perplexing. Recently, Kaitlin Filippi, a 2010 graduate of Burr & Burton Academy and currently a junior at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass, submitted the following column for a class project.

The cost of my father's college education at Pace University, from 1969 to 1973, was $6,080. He was a commuter, so room and board is not included in that cost.

The cost of my mother's college education at Boston College, from 1983 to 1987, was $45,000.

The cost of my college education at Lesley University, from 2010 to 2014, will be $112,294.

My total cost, though, is only so "low" because I receive a merit scholarship, am graduating a semester early, and will be doing my fall 2013 semester from home, online, to save on room and board costs. Without all of that, the cost of my education would have been roughly $190,600.

Clearly, the cost of a college education has been rising exponentially in recent years. In the meantime, the average salary has not been keeping up. Part of this is due to the current state of the economy, but part of it is due to a huge disconnect that has been occurring since before the economy ever crumbled.

Lesley, of course, is not alone. Based on 2013-2014 tuition numbers, for four years of undergrad, Boston University costs $234,000, Harvard costs $218,000, and Emerson costs $201,000.

My mother's school, Boston College, now costs $238,000, while my father's school, Pace, (room and board excluded) costs $141,000. This means that in 40 years, the cost of attending Pace has risen 2,200 percent. In 26 years, the cost of attending Boston College has risen 430 percent.

One might say that inflation is the culprit, and while that does account for some of the rising rates, it does not account for all of it, by any stretch of the imagination.

In the 40 years since my father graduated, the rate of inflation has risen 410 percent. What does that mean? It means that, if schools were only accounting for inflation, the cost of four years of Pace should only be $31,000 today. Instead, it has risen 1,790 percent over and above inflation. In the twenty-six years since my mother graduated, the rate of inflation has risen 99 percent. Therefore, if Boston College were only accounting for inflation rates, it should cost $89,550 to attend four years. Instead, it has risen 331 percent over and above inflation.

Meanwhile, if starting salaries were keeping pace with the rising cost of college, my father's starting salary of $8,500 as an accountant should equate to a starting salary of $195,500 today. According to the Houston Chronicle, starting salaries of accountants today are about $50,000 - a far cry from $195,500. Clearly, colleges and employers are on entirely different wavelengths.

My mother's starting salary of $23,500 as a loan administrator should equate to $124,550 today, based upon the amount that Boston College's price has risen since she graduated. Instead, according to, starting salaries in that field are between $20,000 and $50,000, depending on the size of the company.

According to a January article from Forbes, the average starting salary for new graduates in 2012 was $44,445. Those graduating with majors in the humanities and social sciences make an average of $36,988, while education majors make an average of $40,688.

The cost of one year of college is more than these new graduates make in a year. When my father came out of school, he made more in one year than the cost of his entire college education. My mother at least, in two years, made up the cost of her education. It will likely take me about four years to make up the cost of my college education. What is wrong with this picture?

In years since my parents graduated, high school grads have become increasingly expected to attend college. A diploma is considered to be a young adult's ticket for life, allowing that person to gain access to careers that would otherwise have been unavailable.

Graduate school is now even becoming expected, though some, like myself, are choosing to opt out. How can we afford these rising costs, without being well-compensated when we enter the workforce?

With the expectation that students and their families shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars per child, people are becoming overwhelmed. The money is spent, but the rewards aren't immediately reaped when graduates come face to face with their starting salaries.

How much longer can the rates continue to grow? College costs cannot rise forever - at some point, the cost will become more than students and parents are willing to pay. When will it ever end?"

Let me add something to my granddaughters' piece. The money families must come up with for colleges' is not derived from a bottomless pit. Colleges need to wise up. They are on the same track as is healthcare costs and heading for serious government intervention in the not too distant future.

By Kaitlin Keelan Filippi with Don Keelan who writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington


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