The New York Times reported late last year the findings of the College Board’s 2010 annual reports.  As state financing dwindled, four-year public universities increased their published tuition and fees almost 8 percent, to an average of $7,605. When room and board is included, the average in-state student at a public university now pays $16,140 a year. At private nonprofit colleges and universities, tuition rose 4.5 percent to an average of $27,293, or $36,993 with room and board. In the last five years, the College Board’s report said, average published tuition and fees increased by about 24 percent at public four-year colleges and universities, 17 percent at private nonprofit four-year institutions, and 11 percent at public two-year colleges.

How are students responding?

Nicolaus Ramos, a University of Colorado economics major, paid his tuition bill last Friday all in one-dollar bills to make a point about the high cost of tuition. “Before, I would pay with a check. This year I’m paying in all ones, over $14,000 in ones, weighing in at nearly 30 pounds,” Ramos explained on a YouTube video produced by the Boulder Daily Camera. “Just the sheer volume, just looking at this really sends a message,” Ramos said in the video. “Money does talk. It a gives a much deeper appreciation for the money my parents give me to go to school.”

In another story, students at the City University of New York filed a lawsuit against the school protesting a 5 percent tuition hike. Although it was a modest hike, CUNY, like many public institutions in the U.S., is shifting the burden from the taxpayers to the students. This brings to mind the recent protests in London where rioters rose up in violent revolt against tuition increases.

Is the government aware of the problem?

It’s no surprise that in this week’s State of the Union address, President Obama addressed education and the government’s commitment to see that everyone in this country is able to afford a college education. In his speech, he summed up the protected status he foresees for the federal programs that are crucial to colleges and universities: “Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine.”

He urged Congress to follow up on its 2010 overhaul of the student loan programs and $40 billion investment in Pell Grants and other programs with a modest goal: making permanent the $10,000 tax credit for college expenses. And while it was not directly mentioned in the speech, a fact sheet released by the White House during the speech did say the president “will continue efforts to strengthen the Pell Grant, promote more affordable student loans, and revitalize and expand access to America’s community colleges.”

How can tax credits help?

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, announced that a new college tuition tax credit is expected to help 9.4 million American families this year, a relief program designed to ease the cost of college tuition and fees. Because tuition has been steadily increasing for years, students have had to turn to student loans and other financial aid for assistance, while some students have had to avoid college altogether.

The tax credit, which is partially refundable, is expected to provide $18.2 billion in relief to families struggling to pay rising tuition bills or mounting student debt. Remaining in place through 2012, families will have access to up to $2,500 a year. The good news is, according to Treasury analysis, the maximum available credit is expected to cover about 80 percent of tuition and fees at the average two-year public institution. For those attending four-year public institutions, the credit is expected to cover about one-third tuition and fees. The department hopes that this level of relief will not only work to pay parents and students pay some for contributing tuition to schools, but will also convince more students to pursue higher education.

What is the solution?

A recent news report out of Cincinnati makes it all too clear that rising tuition costs are making it difficult for families to afford college. Jeff Hatfield, a registered broker, pointed out that times are tough and families are looking for ways to foot the college bill. “I don’t think we can operate with the notion that we are gong to fund this out of loans or debt. I think we’re going to go back to the way many of us did it and most of our parents did it, coming out of World War II; you worked your way through college.” Hattfield also cautioned against paying for tuition ahead of saving for your own retirement, which means that students must step up.

What do you think is the solution to rising tuition costs? Can our government afford to pay for our education? Should we go back to the “pay as you go” philosophy of our parents? Can Students afford to get out of debt after graduating?

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