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More Borrowing, Saving Needed to Pay College Costs

December 13, 1987|PATRICIA McCORMACK | United Press International

NEW YORK — The bad news for parents is that the cost of college, already high, is headed higher, according to a report by the American Council of Education.

The report said parents will need to save more and borrow more.

The data:

- Over the last four years, while inflation went up 17%, average tuition in public colleges shot up 45%; more than that at private schools. A four-year bill at Harvard, Yale or Stanford now runs more than $68,000; at public research universities, from $23,000 to $30,000.

- Trends in "Recent College Graduates Surveys" issued from the Education Department's Center for Education Statistics suggest that average college debt for 1987 graduates is $7,480 at all institutions--$6,800 at the public ones; $8,680 at the private ones. College graduates are being forced to mortgage their futures.

According to the report published in "Educational Record," the quarterly of the American Council on Education, higher education leaders believe it is unlikely that the federal government, the educational establishment or the private sector will pick up a larger share of college bills.

As a result, parents and students will be expected to save and borrow more, they contend. James L. Fisher, one of the authorities, warned:

"Unless it rains gold or intercollegiate athletic programs really begin to raise money, the main answer to financing higher education in the future will be borrowing, and on a grander scale than ever before."

Fisher, president emeritus of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and an education consultant from McLean, Va., maintained that parents must steel themselves for more stringent saving and borrowing.

"A dispassionate look at today's political and educational landscape suggests that nobody . . . is going to do much to help students pay for college. Indeed, the situation calls for fundamental changes to the American psyche, both in the general public and within the educational community.

"This reorientation is not helped by distortions from higher education and federal and state governments as they at once blame one another for rising college costs and lament increasing student indebtedness.

"If borrowing substantial sums of money for college is not accepted, the time may come when, faced with a choice--college or no?--the student may say no, and countless worthy institutions may be forced to merge, cut back or close.

"Then the very future of our society will be at stake, but it will be too late to turn back."

How did higher education get in such straits?

Robert Atwood, president of the American Council on Education, an umbrella group for higher education, claims that the patchwork of grants and loan programs created during the 1970s is unraveling.

While the government tries to apply patches to cover the holes, increasing numbers of students are taking on increasing debt and fewer disadvantaged are finding their way to college, he said.

Fisher said he agrees with recommendations that colleges reduce costs by streamlining.

Other suggested solutions include expanding work-study programs, part-time attendance, insurance annuities and prepayment plans.

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