On the Money

As college acceptance letters arrive, parents and students worry about debt

College worries

College-bound seniors are anxiously checking their mailboxes, awaiting those college acceptance, or rejection letters.

But it's also a nerve-wracking time for those just starting the college admission process.

According to The Princeton Review's new "College Hopes and Worries" survey, for the fifth year in a row, students and parents are most concerned about one thing.

"The biggest worry is debt, " Rob Franek, The Princeton Review's Editor-In-Chief tells CNBC in an interview. "The amount of debt that students and parents are likely going to incur to pay for college."

"Franek says college costs have risen "two to three times faster than the rate of inflation every year, consecutively for the last twenty. "

For the 2017-2018 year, the average cost of a private university is $34,699 for tuition and fees, according to U.S. News. Public schools cost $21,632 for out-of-state students, $9,528 for state residents.

"It's heart-stoppingly expensive and it causes so much fear for students and parents," Franek said.

Americans owe $1.3 trillion in student loans. According to Pew Research Center, the median amount of outstanding student debt for Bachelor's degree graduates is $25,000.

Franek tells "On The Money" that despite tuition "sticker shock", "there's solace to know there's money to be had out there. Certainly from the federal and state government, but also from the schools themselves, based on academics. How well you did in the classroom in high school. And how well you actually performed on the SAT and ACT."

While trying to find the college with the best "fit" at the best price, do you have any negotiating power?

Franek says "yes", but he cautioned how you should frame the conversations with college admissions officials.

"If you're comparing School A to School B", and you tell one school how much financial assistance the other is offering, he says that's "probably not the way to go about the process."

"But if you're a student saying, 'My first choice school is this, and I'm just not getting the dollars that are making that school affordable.' That's a much different conversation between a student, parent and that school. That, I think can be very effective."

Other trends he sees is a tuition reset, when a college reduces the published tuition price. He cited Drew University in New Jersey as an example.

"Drew University took $10,000 off the sticker cost bringing it down to what is likely going to be more palatable for the average student and parent coming in."

Another trend that could reduce college costs, is "hybrid education, and online education."

But while acknowledging these trends, he conceded, "I still think we're going to see costs continue to ratchet up at the majority of schools."

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