Grants and Student Loans are the Trend when Paying for College Tuitions

It’s difficult to estimate the true cost of a college education because the final figure amounts to more than the cost of taking classes.

With tuition and mandatory fees, room and board, transportation, books and other expenses, many students find themselves facing hefty price tags.

University System of Maryland schools this year are increasing tuition by 3 percent for the second consecutive year.

According to Mike Lurie, media relations manager for USM, an agreement between Gov. Martin O’Malley, the Maryland General Assembly and USM froze tuition rates from 2005 through 2009. The Board of Regents has approved 3 percent tuition increases among USM schools in each of the past two years.

"It was becoming challenging because we were entering the height of the great recession," Lurie said. "We are dependent to an extent on funding from the state, and the state’s ability to support us is directly related to the economic state in a given year, and that’s related to tax revenue. In a recession, that tax revenue has gone down."

In "real money terms," Lurie said the increase translates to between $150 and $300 of additional payment from undergraduate students.

"That’s not a huge amount of money, nothing that would threaten to price out any families," he said. "There’s a real consensus that in what has been a very grim economic picture, we’re really lucky."

Although USM students are not experiencing a substantial tuition increase, nationwide statistics are not promising. According to a College Board report, the average in-state public tuition and fees increase was 7.9 percent in 2010-11. With other expenses, such as room and board, total annual charges average at $16,140.

"Frankly, students are not prepared at all," said Britney Carter, student financial aid counselor at Hagerstown Community College.

Carter said about 75 percent of HCC students receive financial aid, and in recent years, financial-aid applications have significantly increased.

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