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July 2019 (Updated August 30, 2023)

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College Costs — and Student Debt — Keep Growing

Greg Mattacola | Articles

Read Time: 2:00 min


Growing College Debt

National Averages

High school graduation season is upon us. Nationwide, graduating seniors are walking across the stage to receive their diploma while nervously anticipating the next phase of their lives. For a great many of them, that next step involves some sort of college or university. These grads are not the only nervous ones in this equation. Parents everywhere are losing sleep at the sticker shock of college and wondering just how much financial help they will be able to give their children.

And rightfully so. Depending on which data/survey you read, the average national cost of college per year for 2022/2023 was approximately $23,250 for public schools (In-State), $40,550 for public schools (Out-of-State), and $53,430 for private schools – with many schools, depending on residency, the program/course of study and ranking, costing significantly more.

Student Loan Debt

These prices make it nearly impossible for most households to simply write a check or to save enough for their child’s education. Which, in turn, leads to borrowing and student loans – lots of them in fact. Student loan debt in 2023 is the highest it has ever been. It ranks as the second highest consumer debt, behind only mortgage debt and is ahead of auto loans and credit cards. Borrowers in the Class of 2017, on average, owe approximately $37,000, again, with many owing far more than that. There is $1.76 trillion of student loan debt in this country. It is leading to a new class of educated, working, poor – young adults, with college degrees, who are employed, but because of the weight of their student loans, can barely afford to live.

I discuss ways to save and fund your child’s college education in my article “Plenty to Consider When it Comes to Paying for College“. But first, long before your graduate gets handed the sheepskin, do a deep dive and honestly evaluate whether this very expensive journey is indeed suitable for him or her at this time. Many guidance counselors would have every student and parent alike believe that a four-year college education is the answer for everyone. But no one thing is perfect for everyone, to be sure.

Finding Direction

Perhaps your senior just isn’t ready academically or emotionally to be on their own somewhere. Perhaps they have zero inkling of what they want to study. Perhaps they are more mechanically inclined and would flourish in a skilled trade. Maybe a gap year is the answer. Maybe a community college for two years to mature and narrow down a field of study. Or maybe it’s training/certification in a skilled labor. The point is this – before signing on for a mountain of debt, make certain that this path is indeed your child’s path and that he or she is not just following the herd. $200,000 of debt is a mortgage payment on a nice home in Central New York – versus living with their parents because they can’t afford their own home due to student loan debt. Do the evaluation – it is a worthwhile expenditure of time.

About Strategic

Founded in 1979, Strategic is a leading investment and wealth management firm managing and advising on client assets of over $1.8 billion.