College consumes more family income

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BOSTON (AP) – The cost of sending a child to college in New England is eating up an increasing portion of the average middle-class family’s income, according to a study released Sunday.

Families with students attending private colleges in the region spend about one-third of their income on tuition and related costs, according to the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, a Boston-based nonpartisan think tank. That is up from about one-fourth of family income in 1992-93.

Things are a little better for middle-class families sending children to the region’s public universities. Those families spend 21 percent, or about one-fifth of their income to cover college costs, up from 18 percent in 1992-93.

College costs have climbed faster than income and aid, according to the study, “Paying for College: The Rising Cost of Higher Education.”

Although rising college costs are an issue across the nation, the problem is particularly acute in New England, according to the study, authored by Bridget Terry Long of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

Tuition and fees at Massachusetts public colleges are higher than the national average.

“Higher education is the gateway to the American Dream,” said Ian Bowles, president and CEO of MassINC. “But its cost is accelerating much faster than incomes, even more so in New England than the nation.”

To cover the increased costs of getting a degree, students and parents are getting deeper into debt.

Fourth-year students at public four-year colleges hold an average of $15,399 in debt, a 39 percent increase since 1992-93, even while adjusting for inflation.

The average debt for a fourth-year student at New England’s private colleges was $23,491, a nearly 50 percent increase from 1992-93.

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