The Great Tuition Squeeze

The headlines are scary: California college students, brace for drastic budget cuts.

Some of our highly regarded public institutions of higher learning are getting so expensive students are being shut out.

California State University's governing board is in the midst of voting on yet another tuition hike to counter an even deeper-than-expected cut in state funding.

If approved tuition for in-state undergraduates would increase by $588 to $5,472 which doesn't include room, board or campus fees.

That may not be breaking news, but the situation is getting worse, and middle-income parents of college age kids are feeling the squeeze the most.

There are a slew of financial aid programs if you know how to navigate the list of websites.

That's the good news.

The University of California system for example helps cover tuition and fees for in-state students whose families earn less than $80,000 a year.

A record number of low income students enrolled in the UC system in the fall of 2010. And first-generation transfer students are up as well.

Students of wealthy parents don't worry themselves over tution.

It's the kids who don't qualify for financial aid and can't pay on their own or get help from their parents who are losing out and feeling the squeeze the most and must be more creative in their quest for higher education degree.

"Some students start out at a community college then transfer to the UC system to get their degree, says Henry DeVries of UC San Diego Extension.

Still, the UC system remains "a bargain" when compared with eilte private universities, says Thad Kousser, Associate Professor of Political Science at UCSD.

For the upcoming school year, undergraduate tuition at Stanford, including room and board, is upwards of $52,000. USC? They're estimating the costs for undergrads, including all fees, at $60,800. UC Berkeley is $31,500.

Despite the steep pricetag, the payoff remains: you still need a college degree to get a better paying job than the person who doesn't have one, DeVries says.

Here's the twist: we aren't generating enough workers with college degrees.

By the year 2018, 22 million new college degrees will be needed to meet demand, but it's estimated that the U.S. will fall short of that number by at least 3 million post-secondary degrees, associate's or better, according to a study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

"America is slowly coming out of the Recession of 2007—only to find itself on a collision course with the future: not enough Americans are completing college," the study finds. "At a time when every job is precious, this shortfall will mean lost economic opportunity for millions of American workers."

Could this shortage of supply lead to a drop in tuition? We can only hope.

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