Extremely high tuitions are the province of only the most selective colleges and universities in the country, but the price of a college education is on the rise across the board. The good news is that the institutions themselves are providing more student aid; the bad news is that many more parents and students are finding it necessary to borrow money to pay for college. What's behind the tuition increases? And is college worth the burdensome expense?
If one college or university were as good as any other, there would be no reason for anyone to be concerned about rising tuitions. The average cost of tuition and fees at a four-year public college is only about $1,500 a year; add in room and board, and the annual tab still comes to only about $4,300. Some private institutions are also inexpensive.
But all colleges and universities are not equally good, and the price of an education seems high and climbing at the more selective private ones—and even some of the top public institutions. At the University of Virginia, for example, tuition for an out-of-state resident, mandatory fees and room and board came to $9,175 this year. (The bill was less for state residents, of course, $5,365.) As for the highly selective private institutions, a year at Princeton University will cost more than $19,000 in 1989–90, a year at Sarah Lawrence College nearly $20,000.