- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 1, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A study released yesterday by the National Center for Education Statistics, which analyzes educational data for the federal government, found that families often overestimated the cost of college tuition at four-year public institutions.

It also said the failure of families to research the cost of higher education may discourage some students from attending.

The NCES based the findings on a 1999 survey of 7,900 students and parents by the National Household Education Surveys Program, which provides statistical data on education to researchers and policy-makers.

Asked to estimate the annual tuition at a four-year public college, students and parents’ answers typically ranged from $5,400 to $5,800. In reality, the average tuition for in-state undergraduates for one year at public institutions in 1998 to 1999 was approximately $3,200.

Despite steep tuition increases at public colleges and universities since 1999, families still tend to overestimate the cost of higher education, one university official said.

“It’s like they take the numbers they get and double them in their mind,” said Scott Wiles, a senior fees clerk at the University of Tennessee.

The survey’s release coincides with an announcement by the Department of Education that it has created a Web site to help students and parents develop college funding strategies.

The department hopes Student Aid on the Web will guide families through the financial aid process, help them project education costs and match students with colleges and careers.

“Clearly, there is a real need for public information on college costs and financing,” Education Secretary Rod Paige said in a statement.

The NCES report found that sixth- to 12th-grade students and their parents become more aware of higher education costs as high school graduation draws near.

Even so, the study revealed that 52 percent of 11th- and 12th-graders had obtained college cost information. And their parents didn’t do much better: Just 54 percent reported looking into the price of tuition for their children.

Among the parents of college-bound students, 59 percent of the parents of ninth- and 10th-graders and 63 percent of the parents of 11th- and 12th-graders reported setting money aside for college.

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