The Federal Reserve Bank released its study on changes in US family finance from 2007 to 2010, and the results are not pretty. The headline is that median net worth fell 38.8 percent over this period.
One reason that college seems so unaffordable these days is that, well, it is. A middle-class family has fewer assets than it had 15 years ago. With retirement savings under pressure, families are more likely to save for that than for college; with college savings under pressure, it becomes hard to meet the expected parental contributions.
The worst part of this is that even families that have done everything right are feeling the pinch. The stock market has been weak, interest rates are joke, real estate values have fallen, and wages are stagnant. The only things that have gone up, it seems, are health care and college expenses. People who have done everything right – saved money, paid off debt, lived within their means – are feeling stressed. People who have made a few mistakes are feeling even worse.
The costs of providing an education have gone up, but many colleges have raised tuition beyond their expense increases because they can – because tuition financing was out there, because many people associate high tuition with high quality, and because of a lot of gilding the lily on some campuses.
For most of us, the Federal Reserve report tells us what we already know. I hope, though, the college executives and boards of trustees will take a gander at it and figure out ways to bring the price down on their campuses if they want to maintain enrollment