University Challenge

Here in Portland school started up again this week. Our daughter is now a sophomore in high school and so although there are still three years of schooling left we have started to think about university and the whole application process.

The options seem to be much wider than for our generation and we need to explore various possibilities.

College though is expensive so even though we have a pretty well funded 529 for her, that does need to factor into our decision making process.

Firstly, she could stay in state. This clearly lies at the cheaper end of the spectrum, University of Oregon costs $27,000 all in (tuition is $11,500 and room and board covers the rest of the cost). Closer to home is Portland State, cost there is half the cost mainly due to the fact that she could live at home. Both of these are fine institutions, and there is definitely an appeal to paying in-state tuition, however I strongly suspect our daughter would like to travel further afield than Eugene, and she definitely doesn’t want to live at home!

So lets look further afield. Some states do have reciprocity agreements for tuition but the rules seem complicated and it’s not something to rely on. If we do look out of state, there are various sorts of college we could look at. Lets use California as an example.

A large school like UCLA would cost $60,000 a year for out of state students. Berkeley is around $64,000 a year. So twice what in state tuition would cost in Oregon. Private universities such as Stanford cost around $70,000 a year, so not actually that much more than a public education if you go out of state.

The other side of the country is the home to a large number of liberal arts and ivy league colleges. Cornell and Mount Holyoke (a private women’s college and Tuffy’s alma mater) both run around $70,000 a year.

In general going out of state is going to cost $60-$70,000 a year, and with college costs rising at above inflation each year, i’m fully expecting this to be closer to $90,000 a year by the time she graduates. Of course most people don’t pay anywhere near that amount due to scholarships and financial aid.

One final option for us is going overseas. Due to her British heritage, our daughter has suggested that going to school in the UK is something she might be interested in. As an example the University of Oxford charges around 25,000 GBP for tuition to overseas students, that’s about $33,000. But that doesn’t include the costs of room and board, so if you add that in it’s not dissimilar to the private US college costs. However there are little to no opportunities for financial assistance.

One further option which probably doesn’t fit our family circumstances is to do a 2 year course of study at community college and then transfer to a 4 year school. Some states offer free community college as long as you stay in state upon graduation. Oregon is one of those states but it hasn’t quite worked out, so residents would pay around $10,000 a year assuming you live at home.

Next summer we plan to spend our vacation time looking at some colleges out of state, maybe road trip down to California. But we will soon have to make a decision along with our daughter on what she wants to do. Is going out of state worth double the cost for a similar education? As more and more people now get an undergraduate degree is there any real difference to staying in state over going out state?

These are tough questions and we need to work through them over the coming months and years.

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Trina Short
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Does she have an interest in a future career that might help you narrow down the search some? That is, some universities would be more suited to that major, etc?