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The cost of a college education has skyrocketed in the last three decades. Parents are taking out second and third mortgages and/or postponing retirement by 10 years. Graduates are saddled with debts that often exceed $100,000. Families are going broke.

Why is college so expensive? And who or what is to blame for the inflated cost of getting a degree? In this upcoming special, we find the answers. We also analyze whether the extraordinary expense is worth it. Is it really necessary to attend college in order to secure a better future? The answer may surprise you. — Gregg Jarrett

Before heading off to college, check out the following need-to-know information compiled by FOX Fan Central.

Since 1999, how many undergraduates finished in four years?

• The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) claims that only about 40 percent of students graduate from college in four years. Source: Read more

What is the amount of direct financial aid that the federal government gives to students?

• From 1998 to 2005, the total federal aid, which includes grants, loans, work-study, and education tax benefits, given to finance post-secondary education expenses are as follows (in millions):

– 1998-99: $48,791
– 1999-2000: $53,087
– 2000-01: $56,054
– 2001-02: $62,612
– 2002-03: $72,554
– 2003-04: $83,311
– 2004-05: $90,068

Source: Read more

What is the price of a college education compared to an average family's income?

• Median Household Income (2004, most recent available): $44,389
Source: Read more

• Public Schools: Average total tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities in 2005-06 are $5,491, $365 (7.1 percent) higher than they were in 2004-05. Average total charges, including tuition, fees, room and board, are $12,127 — approximately 65 percent of your average family's income. Source: Read more

• Private Schools: Average total tuition and fees at four-year private colleges and universities in 2005-06 are $21,235, $1,190 (5.9 percent) higher than they were in 2004-05. Average total charges, including tuition, fees, room and board are $29,026 — approximately 27 percent of your household income. Source: Read more

What else do I need to know before I send my kids to college?

• College costs increase at about twice the inflation rate. Current increases have averaged 5 percent to 8 percent. Source: Read more

Click on the College Cost Projector to estimate how much college will cost when you are ready to enroll.

• According to the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, cost factors prevent:

– 48 percent of college-qualified high school graduates from attending a four-year institution

– 22 percent from attending any college at all

At this rate, by the end of the decade, more than 2 million college-qualified students will be completely denied the opportunity for a post-secondary education. Source: Read more

Looking for a book featured in the upcoming college special?

Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much
Author: Richard Vedder
In this book, economist Richard Vedder examines the causes of the college tuition crisis and explores ways to reverse this alarming trend.
Buy It!
Generation Debt
Author: Anya Kamenetz
A new book tackles the 18-to-35-year-old generation's problems — those they face and those they create. Kamenetz believes the younger generation is hampered by the fact that salaries and job opportunities haven't kept up with drastically increasing costs of living. Because of the exorbitant cost of college, many young people can't afford to go, and those who do go graduate with huge debt. Graduates expect to pay off those loans once they get jobs, but entry-level jobs often come with low wages. The job prospects are even worse for those who don't finish or who don't go to college at all —some can't even afford living on their own, another drastically increased cost. The solution to these problems? Kamenetz makes a passionate argument for young people to take action, such as lobbying the government as a cohesive group and being practical and frugal about money matters.
Buy It!