Government can overestimate college costs

Federal listing of college costs often fail to calculate the rising supplements provided by student aid, grants, and loans.images

As the New York Times reports, “The government’s official statistic for college-tuition inflation has become somewhat infamous. It appears frequently in the news media, and policy makers lament what it shows.No wonder: College tuition and fees have risen an astounding 107 percent since 1992, even after adjusting for economywide inflation, according to the measure. No other major household budget item has increased in price nearly as much.But it turns out the government’s measure is deeply misleading.

“For years, that measure was based on the list prices that colleges published in their brochures, rather than the actual amount students and their families paid. The government ignored financial-aid grants. Effectively, the measure tracked the price of college for rich families, many of whom were not eligible for scholarships, but exaggerated the price – and price increases – for everyone from the upper middle class to the poor.The good news is that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has gradually begun to change its methods since 2003, to capture the effects of financial aid. It will take more time to know how well those efforts are working. But the bureau won’t alter the historical data, which means the long-term comparisons will never capture the actual cost of college for American families.

“Those oft-cited comparisons, notes Sandy Baum, a George Washington University professor and an expert on college costs, says, are “certainly misleading.”

“The discrepancy matters because the country is in the midst of a roiling debate about whether college is worth it. Various pundits on both the left and right have taken to claiming that higher education is overrated and often not worth it. The shocking increase in college costs, according to the official Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, is part of their argument. Continue reading “Government can overestimate college costs”

Child care costs outpace family income

In 2012, the cost of child care in the U.S. grew up to eight times faster than family income, according to a new study of the average fees paid to child care centers and family child care homes, reports NPR.

“Child care is an increasingly difficult financial burden for working families to bear,” said Lynette M. Fraga, executive director of Child Care Aware of America, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. “Unlike all other areas of education investment, including higher education, families pay the majority of costs for early education.”

“According to the new findings, some families are spending more on child care than on food or rent, as NPR’s Jennifer Ludden reports for our Newscast unit:

“In most states, average child care center fees for an infant are higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a public college. …

“Factor in two kids, and the study finds average fees higher than the median rent in all states, and higher than the average food bill in all regions.”

In compiling its report, Child Care Aware of America looked at the costs of child care centers, including those run by religious organizations and family care homes. The findings don’t include other options such as nannies, or friends and relatives who look after children. To compare the costs of caring for two children, the organization used data from the price of care for an infant and a 4-year-old. The study ranked U.S. states according to the affordability of child care (as a share of median income for single or married parents), not by the overall cost of child care.

“The dollar cost of center-based care for infants was actually highest in Massachusetts” at nearly $16,500 yearly, according to the report, “compared to just over $13,450 per year in Oregon; however, as a percentage of median income for married couples with children, care was least affordable in Oregon.” Oregon was also found to be the least affordable state for center-based care for a married couple with a 4-year-old, ahead of New York, Minnesota and Vermont. The overall price of raising kids has also risen, according to government figures. Parents who had a child in 2012 can expect to pay $241,080 to raise him or her for the next 17 years, as Eyder reported for The Two-Way this past summer.The high numbers may cause parents to groan, but Child Care Aware of America says it doesn’t see cheaper child care as the sole solution.”

 

More at: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/11/04/243005358/child-care-costs-already-high-outpace-family-income-gains?ft=1&f=1001

Public university costs leveling off

Tuition and fees at public universities increased less than 3 percent this academic year, the smallest rise in three decades, according to the annual College Board reports on trends in pricing and aid, reports the New York Times today.

“This does not mean that college is suddenly more affordable, but it does mean that the rapid growth of recent years did not represent a ‘new normal’ for annual price increases,” the report on pricing said.imgres

“At the same time, the large increases in grant aid from 2009 to 2011 have slowed and have not kept pace with rising tuition. As a result, the amount students and families actually pay has risen as well. The average published annual tuition and fees for in-state students at public universities total $8,893, up 2.9 percent from last year. But most of these students pay far less: When grants and deductions of tax credits are taken into account, the net amount students pay is about $3,120.

“Only about a third of full-time students pay the full published tuition price with no assistance. And most students from families with income below $30,000 got enough aid to cover their tuition and fees, although they still have costs for room and board, which adds $9,498.

“The news is not as bad as it has been,” said Sandra Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and lead author of the reports. The new data, she said, should calm fears that college costs are spiraling out of reach: “It does seem that the spiral is moderating. Not turning around, not ending, but moderating.” For out-of-state students, tuition and fees averaged $22,203, a 3.1 percent increase from last year. And at private four-year institutions, the average published tuition and fees are $30,094, up 3.8 percent from the year before.

“College prices have risen faster than the prices of other goods and services in recent years, even as family incomes have declined. And the economic recovery has benefited mostly those in the highest income brackets. Jane Wellman, a higher-education policy analyst, said the trend reports showed that many public institutions have made serious efforts to rein in their spending — especially community colleges, whose spending has declined sharply over the last decade. Continue reading “Public university costs leveling off”

Fighting textbook costs

The fall semester is upon us, and that means one thing: It’s pilot (project) season for textbooks and their e-alternatives.imgres-3

Most students are stepping into their first class either this week or the next, and many of them will find themselves participating in their institution’s latest cost-saving experiment, reports InsideHigher Ed.  “In the name of student savings, institutions are testing everything from all-tablet learning to textbook rentals to open educational resources (OER) — though similar projects delivered mixed results last year.

This year’s experiments are not markedly different than those of previous years, but institutions are launching new pilot projects with “tremendous forward momentum,” said Nicole Allen, OER director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, which promotes open-source alternatives in scholarly research.

“Semester after semester, students are facing higher and higher prices of textbooks,” Allen said. “There’s frustration with the fact that the current system for publishing textbooks puts up legal barriers, which is counter to what the Internet has to offer. The idea of a framework like open educational resources that makes that information available free is really appealing and in many ways common sense.”

“Put on notice by the president and pressured by cost-conscious families to make higher education more affordable, many institutions spy an opportunity to respond to the charge by curbing the cost of textbooks and other educational materials, although not necessarily with open resources. Common strategies include allowing students rent textbooks for a semester or pushing bookbag-friendly e-textbooks. Yet other institutions are launching more ambitious projects, like Lynn University’s investment in hundreds of iPad minis for its incoming freshmen, which shifts part of the cost from the student to the university.

“Lynn hosted the third and final presidential debate last October, and has taken advantage of a massive upgrade to its wireless infrastructure that was required to accommodate the campaign media circus. Faculty members have for months tinkered with laptops and tablets to familiarize themselves with the iOS platform, and this fall, the university will offer nine introductory courses through Apple’s digital course manager, iTunes U.

“Essentially, our goal is to get rid of all textbooks in our core curriculum,” said Chris Boniforti, the university’s chief information officer. “Without getting myself in too much trouble, I’d like for that to happen next year.”

“Given Apple’s tendency to update its tablets about once a year, Boniforti said students will be able to upgrade to the newest model once their iPad has turned two years old. Upperclassmen interested in the courses can also rent an iPad for $100 — less than the cost of the textbook. If a student breaks the iPad, whether by accident or not, the university will repair it and issue a rental in the meantime. That’s a lot of iPads, Boniforti acknowledged.”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/08/28/cost-textbooks-focus-universities-launch-pilot-projects#ixzz2dKaIPGH4
Inside Higher Ed