Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Jan 4, 2012

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When looking back at the previous year we see it was packed tight with many world-changing and country-changing events. Several dictators were removed from power, troops were pulled out of a 9-year war, and—here at home—public venues all over the country were inhabited by Occupy Wall Street protestors. Among those protestors sprung a separate but related group, called the Occupy Student Debt campaign. This group of current, former, and would-be students is upset over the crippling high student loan costs imprisoning the younger generations. Heartbreaking student loan debt stories are being uploaded to the protestor’s websites every day and threats of a collective default still loom over our financial system’s head. Perhaps it’s time to look at the cost of colleges and try to take a step in these debtor’s shoes.

Costs Keep Rising

In 2007, five years ago, only one college had a total annual cost of over $50,000. Today, student loans of $50,000 or more are required for 111 individual colleges—19 of which are over $55,000.

According to Campus Grotto, a national college news website, Sarah Lawrence College of New York tops the charts for the most expensive college in the country. Sarah Lawrence College, a liberal arts college, has topped the lists for the most expensive college for four years in a row now. At nearly $60,000 a year, students may find their debts difficult to pay off considering liberal arts degrees yield an average salary of $43,609 according to a study done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The most expensive colleges for the 2011-2012 undergraduate school year according to Campus Grotto’s list are:

College

Cost

1.       Sarah Lawrence College

$59,170

2.       New York University

$56,787

3.       Columbia University

$56,310

4.       Harvey Mudd College

$55,998

5.       Eugene Land College

$55,890

6.       Claremont McKenna College

$55,865

7.       Wesleyan University

$55,706

8.       Bard College

$55,617

9.       Barnard College

$55,566

10.   Trinity College (CT)

$55,450

At $50,000 a year for undergraduate studies, students are looking at paying the equivalent of a mortgage in student loan debt by the time their Bachelor’s is acquired.

How is Price Determined?

These prices are composed of three factors: tuition, related fees, and room and board.

Tuition is the cost schools require students to pay as an admission’s cost. Some states, such as California, have no tuition (technically), but that’s often offset that with higher fees.

Related fees include the extra costs for facilities, technology centers, and lab materials. Certain majors and individual courses often carry additional charges depending on the materials and facilities needed in order to teach the necessary coursework.

Room and board plays a huge part in the cost of college and is often unrelated to the college itself, but instead relies on the location of the institution. For instance, New York University is ranked 91st in tuition, but when room and board is factored in to the equation, it jumps to the second most expensive college in the nation.

Don’t Accept the Sticker Price

When shopping for a car or a house, few would settle for the sticker price—the cost of college and student loans should be no different.

Contrary to popular belief, most students qualify for financial aid to assist with the cost of student loans. Meeting with a college’s financial aid counselor can help students identify what sort of assistance they’ll qualify for. The money allocated to students depends on the amount of money a student’s family makes when compared to the family size.

In addition to financial aid, students should apply for scholarships. By doing a simple internet search for college scholarships, current and prospective students can find countless opportunities for free money. Many of these scholarships (particularly the obscure or hyper-specific ones) go unclaimed simply because no applications were filed for them.

By applying for these methods of free money, students can shave off some of those shockingly high university costs. Even for those attending lower cost colleges, financial aid and scholarships can help reduce the years students may find themselves indebted to their student loans.