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College applicants increasingly stressed over paying the tab

The top concern keeping parents and students up at night as they apply for college? That would be the amount of debt they are about to take on, according to The Princeton Review's 2017 College Hopes & Worries survey.

Student loan debt
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A majority of students and parents said their biggest worry was the "level of debt I/my child will take on to pay for the degree." That's in line with last year but a sharp contrast to a decade ago, when the most commonly cited answer was "won't get in to first-choice college."

It's no wonder. Tuition has historically risen about 3 to 5 percent a year, according to the College Board, and during the recession, declining public funds caused tuition to skyrocket. At private four-year schools, average tuition and fees rose 54 percent in the last 10 years. Tuition plus fees at four-year public schools, which were harder hit, jumped 71 percent over the time period.

Student Debt on the rise
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A whopping 98 percent of college applicants and their parents said financial aid would be necessary to pay for college and 65 percent said it was "extremely necessary," according to the Review.

Tuition keeps rising

Academic Year
Private Nonprofit Four-Year
One-Year % Change
Public Four-Year
One-Year % Change
Public Two-Year
One-Year % Change
05-06 $20,980 4.7% $5,492 7.1% $2,182 5.0%
06-07 $22,308 6.3% $5,804 5.7% $2,266 3.8%
07-08 $23,420 5.0% $6,191 6.7% $2,294 1.2%
08-09 $24,818 6.0% $6,599 6.6% $2,382 3.8%
09-10 $25,739 3.7% $7,073 7.2% $2,569 7.9%
10-11 $26,766 4.0% $7,629 7.9% $2,742 6.7%
11-12 $27,883 4.2% $8,276 8.5% $2,973 8.4%
12-13 $28,989 4.0% $8,646 4.5% $3,154 6.1%
13-14 $30,131 3.9% $8,885 2.8% $3,241 2.8%
14-15 $31,283 3.8% $9,145 2.9% $3,336 2.9%
15-16 $32,405 3.6% $9,410 2.9% $3,435 3.0%
Source: The College Board

"College costs have increased two times to three times faster than the rate of inflation every year consecutively for the last 20," said Robert Franek, editor in chief. For families with children in high school, "it causes so much stress," he added.

Seventy-six percent of the over 10,000 respondents reported high levels of stress — up 4 percent from last year and 20 percent more than in the survey's first year in 2003.

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When asked which part of the application process was the toughest, the majority of college hopefuls said the college admission tests, followed by completing the application and financial aid forms.

Still, 99 percent said college will be worth the investment.