When college used to be (practically) free

bcla

On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
Joined
Nov 28, 2012
I'm thinking of how I'm going to pay to send my child to college. Our child is 9, so it's not that far off.

I do know that quite a few schools have pledged that financial aid will mean pretty much no tuition for "middle class" families on a sliding scale. However, I'm thinking of when I went to school, where my first year consisted on California resident fees (they didn't call it "tuition") that totalled less than $1400 for a full academic year. Then it started creeping up with less state support. My years were between these two points in this article:

1985-86: Annual tuition and fees for resident UC undergraduates total $1,296. Annual tuition and fees for nonresident UC undergraduates total $5,112.​
1995-96: Annual tuition and fees for resident UC undergraduates total $4,354. Annual tuition and fees for nonresident UC undergraduates total $12,053.​

It used to be "free" other than mandatory registration fees.

I have heard of some schools that were tuition free because of a generous endowment. Stanford started off free but then started charging a nominal tuition. Cooper Union was well known for being free, but eventually ran into financial issues where they started charging tuition. I understand that they're trying to get back to the free model within a decade.

There's a fairly unique two-year college in California that's free, but it's in exchange for 20 hours of work per week. The work is considered part of the learning experience there.

 

NotUrsula

DIS Veteran
Joined
Apr 19, 2002
State support for public higher education has been steadily decreasing for around 25 years now, and tuition/room/board is skyrocketing accordingly. (And no, "fancy" dorms & rec centers don't really have an impact on that, except to draw in more affluent students who can afford to pay for them. Most of those projects are built either though private donations or as speculative ventures by developers who lease the land they sit on from the University.)

The work-study model does have a few adherents that have been doing it for decades now; two that come to mind are Berea and College of the Ozarks. Both of them have an income ceiling for students; you cannot attend them if your family income is too high. (The formula is complex, and takes COL into account.)
 

Kitty 34

Hums in her sleep
Joined
Feb 16, 2000
My parents paid $700 and some dollars for me to attend Concordia Teacher's College in River Forest, IL in the mid 70's. I think that was for the year; not for sure but even if that was for our trimesters....not bad in today's terms.
 
  • lovin'fl

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 7, 2011
    Best to look at private schools with academic scholarships. For my girls (twins) to go to our state school, at the time (U of MD) was about the same cost or more than what we're paying for the private out of state school they are going to. And MD took less in state kids than out of state. Many in state kids with great resumes don't get in until 2nd semester. We were in process of moving to NC where UNC took higher numbers of in state kids over out of state. If only we had moved to NC 2 years before they graduated (DH was working there then but kids didn't want to leave their HS so I stayed there with them). And we are upper-middle class, I'd guess, and we did not qualify for any student aid aside from that typical federal loan (like $5500, then $6500 and then $7500 over the years). My DD also did not qualify to get an on campus job due to our family income. I don't ever see any 'free' college for middle class at all. Or much of a break at all really.

    To be specific my DDs' college with room and board is about $43K and we paid about $20K after the academic scholarships....each kid. They got that based on GPA and SAT scores and the such. This year they live off campus and we are saving a bit since rent and grocery money is a bit cheaper than room and board. They have just one more year (graduate a semester early). Yay!!!

    Thanks goodness we had a 529 college fund. Wasn't a huge amount but every bit helps. So start putting some money in one now and it will come in handy. Also, if your kid can do the AP classes in HS to get college credit, like mine did, and graduate early that helps too. Mine are a semester early and their good friend was an entire year early.

    Don't be afraid of community college first either. My DS did that route, as did I way back, and it is a great way to keep cost down especially when kids are still young and unsure of what they want to do. DS changed his major. And it really wasn't as big an issue as if he was in a 4 year and had to add a 5th year (like my niece is currently having to do) due to changing majors.
     

    bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    Don't be afraid of community college first either. My DS did that route, as did I way back, and it is a great way to keep cost down especially when kids are still young and unsure of what they want to do. DS changed his major. And it really wasn't as big an issue as if he was in a 4 year and had to add a 5th year (like my niece is currently having to do) due to changing majors.
    I took plenty of AP classes and passed 5 AP tests where I got 5.3 semester units each and got to skip a few classes. At least for me it allowed me to eventually take a few minimum unit semesters, but I still needed time in order to college the classes needed for my graduation requirements.

    Still - I'd love it if the University of California were still practically tuition free. It's not about $14,000 per year in-state.
     

    tvguy

    Question anything the facts don't support.
    Joined
    Dec 15, 2003
    I don't recall what the Cal State University System, U. C. System, or Community Colleges charged...I think Community Colleges charged like a $25 registration fee when I went to college. But I went to the University of the Pacific, a Private college 1975 to 1979, tuition started at $1,700 my Freshman year for the year, and had risen to $2,500 my Senior year for the year.
     

    bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    I don't recall what the Cal State University System, U. C. System, or Community Colleges charged...I think Community Colleges charged like a $25 registration fee when I went to college. But I went to the University of the Pacific, a Private college 1975 to 1979, tuition started at $1,700 my Freshman year for the year, and had risen to $2,500 my Senior year for the year.
    When I was looking at colleges in the late 80s, a lot of the "pricey" private schools were maybe around $20,000 per year just for tuition.

    I've only taken a single community college class, and that was while I was in grad school. I think the per semester unit fee was $11, but since I already had a bachelors degree at the time I was required to pay a $50 per unit fee instead.
     
  • Hikergirl

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 28, 2016
    Our State school tuition isn't really that bad, however when you add in room and board it more than doubles the cost. They (at least the 2 that my kids go too) require students to live on campus until they are 21 years old, which means for some kids they have to pay those room and board fees for all 4 years. It's ridiculous.
     

    amcnj

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 10, 1999
    Well I am so old that my undergraduate tuition was $380 a semester and you could take up to 21 credits, and this was at the state university. So you could earn enough working summers or part time to go to college. And if someone decided to change majors and lost a year or two, it wasn’t the end of the world, cost wise.

    For my children I made use of a 529 plan. In addition, merit scholarships and programs helped (in one program you went to the community college free for two years, transferred to a state four year college and received $7500 a year towards that). And AP courses can help. One child saved a whole year, less one more lab science class they took one summer. So their undergraduate degree was done in three years (plus one summer class), and they used the fourth year of their merit scholarship to pay for grad school instead.

    So it is definitely a good idea to see what types of options/programs are out there, and then you have to hope they still exist by the time your child needs them!
     

    mjkacmom

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 20, 2006
    Best to look at private schools with academic scholarships. For my girls (twins) to go to our state school, at the time (U of MD) was about the same cost or more than what we're paying for the private out of state school they are going to. And MD took less in state kids than out of state. Many in state kids with great resumes don't get in until 2nd semester. We were in process of moving to NC where UNC took higher numbers of in state kids over out of state. If only we had moved to NC 2 years before they graduated (DH was working there then but kids didn't want to leave their HS so I stayed there with them). And we are upper-middle class, I'd guess, and we did not qualify for any student aid aside from that typical federal loan (like $5500, then $6500 and then $7500 over the years). My DD also did not qualify to get an on campus job due to our family income. I don't ever see any 'free' college for middle class at all. Or much of a break at all really.

    To be specific my DDs' college with room and board is about $43K and we paid about $20K after the academic scholarships....each kid. They got that based on GPA and SAT scores and the such. This year they live off campus and we are saving a bit since rent and grocery money is a bit cheaper than room and board. They have just one more year (graduate a semester early). Yay!!!

    Thanks goodness we had a 529 college fund. Wasn't a huge amount but every bit helps. So start putting some money in one now and it will come in handy. Also, if your kid can do the AP classes in HS to get college credit, like mine did, and graduate early that helps too. Mine are a semester early and their good friend was an entire year early.

    Don't be afraid of community college first either. My DS did that route, as did I way back, and it is a great way to keep cost down especially when kids are still young and unsure of what they want to do. DS changed his major. And it really wasn't as big an issue as if he was in a 4 year and had to add a 5th year (like my niece is currently having to do) due to changing majors.
    Dd18 is at an OOS public school, costing the same as most of the private schools she was deciding on, all gave her the highest merit award before full ride. In state public would’ve been a little cheaper, but they gave her the lowest amount you far.
     

    longboard55

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 9, 2014
    In the 70s a California St college such as San Diego St was $100 a semester for full 15 units, the State universitys like UCLA were $600. I love it when people brag about working to pay their own tuition, we are ripping off the young
     
  • bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    In the 70s a California St college such as San Diego St was $100 a semester for full 15 units, the State universitys like UCLA were $600. I love it when people brag about working to pay their own tuition, we are ripping off the young
    I was there when the costs went up. It seemed kind of insignificant back then, but it kind started the eventual increase to the current costs. There was that time a few years back when the UC Regents approved a scheme where they would admit more out of state students because it brought in more revenue. The various versions of the California Master Plan for Higher Education placed a premium on admitting mostly in-state students. I guess one of the things that seems a little bit odd is that in-state students didn't have to be US citizens. I knew a few in-state students who were green card holders.

    And totally an aside, but the University of California is run out of an office in downtown Oakland near Chinatown. Totally random location.
     

    lovin'fl

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 7, 2011
    Yeah, my girls' room and board was more than half of that, around, $21K we were paying. So now that they are off campus we pay like $9K each girl. They had to live on campus the first 2 years. I am pretty sure we are paying less than $12K for rent and groceries each...let me see ($550 rent each and $350 groceries each...$900/month each and college is 8 months so $7200 but they'll be there a full year so it's not as much a savings but still some).
     
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    billlaurie

    Disneyfan
    Joined
    Jan 22, 2012
    Best to look at private schools with academic scholarships. For my girls (twins) to go to our state school, at the time (U of MD) was about the same cost or more than what we're paying for the private out of state school they are going to. And MD took less in state kids than out of state. Many in state kids with great resumes don't get in until 2nd semester.
    My son is a HS senior in MD and not sure if he will be accepted to main campus, despite good grades and SAT scores. It is very frustrating with the out of state population surpassing the in state, and especially that our state income tax subsidizes it. I remember when MD was the safety school for my older kids. Sounds like you got a great deal for your daughters. Where are they?
     

    lovin'fl

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 7, 2011
    My son is a HS senior in MD and not sure if he will be accepted to main campus, despite good grades and SAT scores. It is very frustrating with the out of state population surpassing the in state, and especially that our state income tax subsidizes it. I remember when MD was the safety school for my older kids. Sounds like you got a great deal for your daughters. Where are they?
    Misericordia in PA. Yep, DH and I went to UMBC in early 90s. It was crazy cheap compared to now (gosh, wanna say like $5K or so with room and board maybe like $7K). And UMBC is pretty pricey now too. Wild. My DDs' good friend who graduated a year early (and is now in the UMD law school) did not get in UMD out of HS. She had like a 4.6 GPA, was in Nat Honor Society and band and Best Buddies and did Varsity sport all 4 years and had crazy high SATs. Was in other clubs and had this amazing resume, in top of her class (not sure where in top but up there). Still didn't get in first semester. Crazy.
     
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    cvjw

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 22, 2005
    Tuition is free in the state of Georgia if students attend a state school and make certain grades in high school and on the SAT.

    We paid $1100 per semester to the University of Georgia for my older son who graduated in 2018. We just had to pay fees - tuition was totally free.

    We pay a little more than that for younger son at Georgia because his high school gpa was just a little under the free tuition cutoff!

    Tuition is funded by the Georgia lottery.
     

    Pea-n-Me

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 18, 2004
    I found this book to be very informative about how the college financial process works, even if a goal isn't being completely debt free. Someone here recommended it when we were college planning. It's a good read.





    So glad ours are almost done! BTW had I not met DH I might well have been a UC grad myself! My sister was living and going to school out there, and I was seriously considering joining her.
     

    bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    Misericordia in PA. Yep, DH and I went to UMBC in early 90s. It was crazy cheap compared to now (gosh, wanna say like $5K or so with room and board maybe like $7K). And UMBC is pretty pricey now too. Wild. My DDs' good friend who graduated a year early (and is now in the UMD law school) did not get in UMD out of HS. She had like a 4.6 GPA, was in Nat Honor Society and band and Best Buddies and did Varsity sport all 4 years and had crazy high SATs. Was in other clubs and had this amazing resume, in top of her class (not sure where in top but up there). Still didn't get in first semester. Crazy.
    Honestly I'm not sure I could still get into my alma mater if I had to do it again. It's basically more applicants and barely any increase in the number of admitted students.

    However, there isn't necessarily a shortage of available places for new college students. But the traditional "prestige" schools aren't getting any bigger.

    Around here, there used to be a fairly well defined reputation in the University of California system. UC Berkeley and UCLA had the best reputation. I'm not sure how it got there, but most of the other UCs were considered top tier except maybe for UC Riverside and UC Santa Cruz. I remember hearing that for those students who were "UC eligible" that those were the places where one got a guarantee admission if not admitted to another UC after applying. Right now I think that's only for UC Merced, which is new and still needs to develop a reputation.
     

    billlaurie

    Disneyfan
    Joined
    Jan 22, 2012
    Misericordia in PA. Yep, DH and I went to UMBC in early 90s. It was crazy cheap compared to now (gosh, wanna say like $5K or so with room and board maybe like $7K). And UMBC is pretty pricey now too. Wild. My DDs' good friend who graduated a year early (and is now in the UMD law school) did not get in UMD out of HS. She had like a 4.6 GPA, was in Nat Honor Society and band and Best Buddies and did Varsity sport all 4 years and had crazy high SATs. Was in other clubs and had this amazing resume, in top of her class (not sure where in top but up there). Still didn't get in first semester. Crazy.
    We have also seen students with great credentials get rejected. We will find out soon enough whether he is part of that group!
     

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