Why Does UC Cost So @#%% Much? Or…Does It?

Back in the day, when I enrolled in the UCs, tuition was cheap! It even seemed cheap at the time. I paid my own way b/c I worked part-time during the school year and during the summer. I could pay my own way working part-time. As we all know, those days are long gone. Not considering room & board, just to pay a UC $14,000 tuition tab now, a student, working a minimum wage job, would have to work over 1500 hours annually. The national standard for full-time jobs? 2,087 hours a year.

UC Tuition in 1976 v 2015

How did this come to pass? Tuition used to be free at the UC! In the 1970s, when the State began requiring students to pay tuition (they didn't call it 'tuition'; they called it 'educational fees'), the UCs charged about $630/year. Does inflation alone account for the roughly $14,000 tab in 2017? Nope. 

Click here to see a chart of the fee increases at the UCs over time.

If students only had to account for inflation, the 1976 tuition of $630/year would be just $2665 in 2015.  As the UC marketing team and education pundits will tell you, students enrolled in the 1970s and even those enrolled in the 1990s benefited tremendously from State of California support of the UCs. We alums were heavily subsidized.  Click here to see a graph that shows who paid for the cost of a UC education over the past 20 years or so. Bottom line: the student is now paying what the State (read: taxpayers) used to pay.

Yes, students at the UCs are paying more. Is it more than their fair share compared to other colleges? Yale, for example, getting little direct government funding (yes, their tax benefits are subsidies, too), has always been expensive compared to the UCs.  In 1976, Yale charged $4400 tuition (8 times the UC price at the time). Yale tuition in 2016 ($49,480) also exceeds what standard inflationary pressures would suggest it should be. Tuition at Yale is now about 3 times that of the UCs. Food for thought: non-resident tuition at UC is only about $10,000 less compared to Yale. Put another way, attending UC is essentially just as expensive as Yale is for international and out-of-state students! Hence... the very public fight over UC administrators admitting more non-residents to shore up the budget.

Where does all the UC tuition money go anyway?

Click here for a pie chart showing UC expenses by category. 

Clearly, employee salary and benefits comprise the bulk of the expenses. But, before anyone shouts about those exorbitant Professor Salaries, check out the very transparent and publicly posted salaries on this website: Wages of the Employees of UC.  On this website, you can search for "Professor" at each of the 9 UCs and see just how many professors are paid more than $70,000 (spoiler alert, few are: 5/93 at UCD). If you search for "Coach", the salary range is definitely provocative and rather extreme: $1,000 - $2.3 Million at UCLA, for example. (Go Bruins?)

If you've read this far (Thanks!) and are looking for an answer to the sorry state-of-affairs of college tuition vis a vis your family's budget, I have a few tips:

  1. Apply where you land above the 75th percentile and you'll probably get some merit aid.
  2. Enroll in AP classes in high school to shave off time spent in college.
  3. Attend a Community College for the first two years to save big money.  

If at all possible, just say 'No!' to debt which will only increase the total amount paid. No matter which college you attend, study hard and make the most of it each and every day! A bachelor's degree still shows a positive ROI.


Student Loans: Can You Avoid the Trillion Dollar Problem?

Clients ask us daily: Where are the ideas on how to pay for, at least part of, a $60,000 University education?

Look for value in your college search!

Look for value in your college search!

1. Don't go to a college that charges that much--Live at the parent's house, attend Community College, transfer and then pay for only 2 years at a private college. Transfer out rates are online. That stat generally tells you how many transfer students your college of choice needs.

2. Study hard in high school, maintain above a 3.5 gpa and attend a school that offers merit aid. Supply and demand is a useful principal in implementing this strategy. Even for very high-income families!

3. While in college, apply to be a residential advisor to earn stipends AND/OR waived dorm fees.

4. Study hard in school, take lots of AP's and only go to a college that will give you credit for all of your exams, graduate early thereby saving, potentially, a semester to over a year of college tuition. If you are able, speed up the process even more by taking an extra college class each semester.

5. Did we mention: Study Hard In High School!!! There's little-to-no aid available for average students. And, if you are not a high achieving student, why not go to your local CC first, or take a MOOC, or try Vo-Ed and figure it all out.

Shameless plug: Don't Stress: We, at A+, can help you with all of the above!

What is your pathway after high school?

What is your pathway after high school?


For those interested in learning more, here are links to very worthwhile reading on the subject.

good background on issue: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/upshot/a-quiet-revolution-in-helping-lift-the-burden-of-student-debt.html?action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=MostEmailed&version=Full&region=Marginalia&src=me&pgtype=article&abt=0002&abg=1

what a typical community college charges: http://web2.cuyamaca.edu/hsout/fees.asp

a typical merit aid matrix: http://www.millsaps.edu/administrative_offices/financial_aid_types_of_assistance.php

Things to Know about Student Loan Debt

Things to Know about Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt levels are distressing. While debt taken on by recent graduates averages $30,000, there are some loan packages worth over $100,000. All parents analyzing loans should read about this cautionary tale.

Ten Colleges Under $35,000 (OK, 11!)

Readers love rankings. September marked the release of the infamous US News "College Rankings". The New York Times popular "Upshot" column recently published their own college rankings using the number of Pell Grant recipients enrolled as the primary consideration. The Federal Government (Department of Education) now ranks colleges using Cost of Attendance (COA) criteria. National magazines like Money and Forbes also publish a list. Your stalwart A+ team decided to publish a small list of its own based on the #1 question asked by clients: How much is this college adventure going to cost us?

Obviously, college cost is an important consideration for families. Yet, we think families need to consider one additional statistic when comparing college costs-- what is the four-year graduation rate of colleges with a total COA of less than $35,000? On the list below, we place the percentage of students that graduate in four years right next to the cost of attending that school. We think graduating in four years is important primarily because paying tuition for 4 years is cheaper than paying for 6 years!  By keeping to the trendy "Top Ten" label, our list is obviously short and non-exhaustive.  Also, note there are many reasons a college may have a low four-year graduation rate (eg. lots of commuter students and/or part-time student status, transfer issues, impacted majors) which may or may not affect an individual student.

That said, our A+ mantra is:  #motivation trumps #rankings! If you are, indeed, motivated, then statistics don't really matter. Your motivation will help you graduate in 4 years even if many of your classmates do not.

In ascending order of COA (2014's cost of attendance including tuition, room, board, transportation, other annual and mandatory fees) side-by-side with the respective 4-year graduation rate:

1.  California Community Colleges:  $17, 386 -- 64%

2.  Eastern Washington University in Cheney: $22,100 -- 24% (this is the WUE rate which shaves off about $11,000 making EWU cheaper than SDSU for California students living on campus. EWU's WUE is stellar and the campus is awesome. Learn more here!

3. University of Nevada, Reno:  $24,000 (WUE rate) -- 16%

4. CSU (eg. San Diego State):  $25,000 -- 33%

5. Northern Arizona University:  $29,380 (WUE rate) -- 30%

6. Colorado Mesa University:  $30,000 -- 13%

7. Appalachian State:  $31,200 -- 40%

8. University of Minnesota:  $31,500 -- 54%

9. Radford University:  $32,000 -- 42%

10. University of California at Davis:  $33,000 -- 51%

11. University of Montana:  $34,780 -- 24%

To compare: Yale University's total COA is roughly $64,00 and has a 4-yr graduation rate of 90%.

The 1990 Student Right to Know Act requires colleges and universities to report graduation rates. 

Note: Why aren't ASU or UA listed here? Their WUE rates are limited. Learn more here and here.

Cost of College: Going Down?!

There is no easy solution to the tuition debacle. A bit of history: Harvard and the entire Ivy League have always been unaffordable. The average cost of attending Harvard in the 1980's was around $10,000. The median family income at that time hovered just under $30,000. Public colleges and universities, by comparison, were a steal. I mean that literally! In California, in the 1980's, an undergraduate majoring in history paid the same tuition at the UC's as did a medical student. The resources required to teach a history major are just not the same as teaching a medical student. My contention: the current shake up in higher education is long overdue. Unfortunately, we are paying dearly now for the ill-conceived, inefficient pricing structure of times past. So I applaud the recent effort by certain college presidents to actually lower their fees!

Here's a link to an article in the NY Times with more detail on colleges that are lowering fees: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/26/education/getting-out-of-discount-game-small-colleges-lower-the-price.html?pagewanted=2&hp