Beth Cooper helped her 9-year-old son, Jace, open his own bank account, where he stashes half his $4-a-week allowance. He was thrilled when the balance reached $100.
“Mom,” he said, “surely I can pay for college now.”
The price of tuition, even at state schools, has been rising faster than middle-class families’ earnings. According to a recent report by the student loan company Sallie Mae, families draw on grants, scholarships, paychecks and savings, but still end up borrowing heavily for college. The price tag is so daunting that half of families don’t save for their children’s college at all.
Who can blame them? They’re wary of the stock market after the 2007 financial crash, but interest rates on CDs and savings accounts are almost nil. And even the investment that was supposed to be a sure thing — Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition plan — gets called into question every legislative session.
“For us, bills have to get paid first,” said Ridgefield resident Rebecca Stapper, mother of two. “It’s very difficult to save for college when you’re lucky if you get 1 percent in a savings account.”
Tuition at state universities, on the other hand, has risen between 6.6 percent and 19 percent a year over the past decade, according to the state actuary. Attending the University of Washington will cost an estimated $27,587 next academic year, a figure that includes tuition, fees, room and board, and all associated expenses.