Student Life

The Cost(s) of College


Alex Nabaum

Chances are good that you attended college.

After all, this is an alumni magazine. But readers of On Wisconsin span the decades, so the memories of how you paid for college — and how much you paid for college — no doubt vary widely.

Despite these sundry recollections of the bottom line (and whether or not ramen noodles were part of the equation), these days two things are certain: the cost of college has been climbing, and college involves finances, a subject many students are ill-equipped to handle.

Whether families are chatting about college applications at the dinner table or President Obama is talking about student loan debt from the East Room of the White House, these topics have become part of a national conversation. That level of interest motivated us to research and write about college as a value proposition.

One of our stories looks at many facets of tuition, including who sets it, what it does and doesn’t cover, and why it’s viewed as worth the investment. A second story explores how much students know about taking on debt, whose responsibility it is to pay when the tuition bill comes due, and how that expectation, some believe, can change the composition of a school’s student body. And a third story describes a bold direction to ensure that humanities degrees show their value in a world immersed in technology.

A recent national survey of undergraduates and their parents conducted by Sallie Mae and Ipsos found that “98 percent of families agree that college is a worthwhile investment and more than eight in ten families indicate they are willing to stretch themselves financially to obtain the opportunities afforded by higher education.”

The UW’s financial aid experts make one point absolutely clear: no matter who is footing the bill, when it comes to talking about college, the earlier, the better. They advise making this national conversation a personal conversation.

Published in the Winter 2014 issue


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