Monday, September 22, 2003

As students read brochures, parents bemoan college costs



By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DOWNTOWN - Thousands of high schoolers, with Mom or Dad in tow, picked their way Sunday through a smorgasbord of 250 colleges and universities.

An application here, a brochure there ... how about Hawaii Pacific University?

But while students were choosing the college of their dreams at the National College Fair at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center, parents were wondering how much that dream will cost.

The average cost of a four-year public college is $4,081 a year, and average price of a private college is $18,273 a year, according to the College Board. And those costs keep growing.

Emily Neubauer, a junior at Mount Notre Dame, had narrowed her choices down to about 15 schools, said her father, Mark.

There were two extremes: the University of Cincinnati at about $50,000 for four years, or Fordham University in New York City at about $140,000.

He's been planning for her education since she was born, using the Uniform Gift to Minors Act, which allows parents to save money in their children's names.

But Neubauer, of Maineville, says the money hasn't kept up with tuition increases.

"I don't understand why universities and colleges feel obligated to raise prices every year," he said. "I don't think they are in keeping with the rest of the economy."

Last academic year, tuition at four-year public institutions jumped by an average of 9.6 percent, according to the College Board. This year, local universities raised tuition higher than that: NKU 16.4 percent, UK 15 percent and UC 9.9 percent.

At the fair, students could meet with advisers and attend a seminar on ways to pay for college. One tip was Fastweb.com, a free Internet site that searches 600,000 scholarships.

Thomas Canepa, assistant vice president for admissions at UC, urged parents to compare schools after accounting for financial aid and scholarships rather than focusing on the sticker price.

The fair provided an expanded list of choices for Lindsay Smith, 16, a junior at Finneytown High School.

"I knew a couple of schools I wanted to get information on," said Smith. "But I ended up with a lot more stuff than I planned to."

Her parents have been saving for her education with mutual funds since she was 6. But they wonder how far the money will go.

"The stock market is declining and the tuition is increasing," said her father, Graig Smith. "It's definitely a lot tougher these days."

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E-mail bkelly@enquirer.com




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