January 14, 2024

🥶 Good morning!

Nick here. This frigid and blustery morning reminds me of traversing the bridge over the Chippewa River while attending the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Today's topic is how much college costs and how to afford it.

Programming note: We're off tomorrow for MLK Day but will be back in your inbox Tuesday morning.

Today's newsletter is 656 words — a 2.5-minute read.

1 big thing: What it costs to attend Minnesota colleges

Data: Tuition Tracker; Chart: Axios Visuals. Note: Net price is what a family with a median household income of $75,000-$110,000 would pay after federal, state, local and institutional grants and scholarships.
Data: Tuition Tracker; Chart: Axios Visuals. Note: Net price is what a family with a median household income of $75,000-$110,000 would pay after federal, state, local and institutional grants and scholarships.

Thousands of students are scrambling to finish their college applications, as many Minnesota schools have a final deadline this week.

The big picture: College tuition has risen dramatically over the past half century. While prices have flattened in recent years, paying for higher education remains a major burden for many families.

Zoom in: At least eight private colleges in Minnesota have sticker prices above $60,000 for the 2023-24 school year, according to Tuition Tracker, which uses U.S. Department of Education data. That figure includes tuition, fees and on-campus living costs.

  • Topping that list is Carleton College in Northfield at $83,148.

Yes, but: Only 36% of students at Carleton pay full price, according to the tracker.

  • A student from a household in the median income range for the Twin Cities will pay closer to $27,000 a year after federal, state, local and institutional grants and scholarships.

Meanwhile, the University of Minnesota's cost is $30,513 a year, but the estimated net price for a median-income student is $19,201.

Of note: University of Minnesota system schools in Duluth, Crookston and Morris will raise tuition by only 1% next school year.

  • Sticker prices at most four-year U of M satellite schools clock in between $23,000 and $27,000, though middle-class families can expect to pay $14,000 to $19,000.

2. 🎓 Advice for paying for college

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

With costs in mind, Axios asked Thrivent financial advisor Autumn Schinka how families can save for higher education.

What they're saying: Start saving early, Schinka advised. Parents could start with as little as $50 or $100 a month, she said, but the key is to have the money automatically sent into a college savings account rather than putting it off and risking spending it elsewhere.

  • There are several ways to save, depending on a family's situation. Some popular options include 529 plans, Coverdell Education Spending Accounts and Roth IRAs. While contributions are not deductible from federal income taxes, earnings grow tax deferred.

Yes, but: Saving for college is hard for many families, especially those with their own student debt or child-care expenses.

  • Schinka tells her clients they should prioritize paying off their debt. As for savings, parents should first make sure they are taking advantage of any employer retirement match before saving for college.
  • "I really recommend that people don't sacrifice retirement to pay for their kids' college," she said. "You can't borrow in retirement, but your child can take out some debt to help pay for education."

The bottom line: Parents should be talking to their kids about how much college costs, Schinka said.

  • "So that they don't get too excited about a particular school that just doesn't fit into your family's financial situation. I think it's important for kids to understand the long-term implications of a choice they make when they're 17 or 18 years old that could affect them decades in the future."

3.❓ 1 question to go

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

I paid for my college education with a mix of bartending tips and a manageable amount of student loans.

  • My dad came through with a $500 lifeline the spring of my senior year, when I didn't have much left besides a couple packs of ramen noodles, a few cans of Miller High Life and a frozen pizza.

Now, with three kids of my own, I wrestle with how much my wife and I should help with their education, especially considering how much tuition has increased since the mid-2000s and how much it will continue to rise.

  • I don't want them to struggle as much as I did, but that experience taught me valuable lessons about budgeting and managing finances. I want them to learn those things, too.

Weigh in: If you're a parent, are you planning to pay for some or all of your kids' college? Reply to this email if you're comfortable sharing your strategy.

🏈 Nick is probably watching football because nothing beats the NFL playoffs when it's this cold outside.

This newsletter was edited by Ross Terrell and copy edited by James Gilzow.