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Students deal with an increase in tuition
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Nicky Hendrickson will be a sophomore at St. Cloud State University in the fall. But this summer she's driving the beverage cart at Wapicada Golf Course east of St. Cloud. She's working two jobs to pay for an expected $500 increase in her tuition next year. (MPR Photo/Tim Post)
Students at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities expect a big jump in the cost of tuition this fall. When the MnSCU Board of Trustees meets next month, a tuition increase in on the agenda. It could be as much as 15 percent for some state colleges. Students and their parents say tuition is becoming a burden, even at traditionally affordable public colleges. College financial experts say the good news is there are some new ways to save for college.

St. Cloud, Minn. — This fall Nicky Hendrickson, 19, will be a sophomore at St. Cloud State University. This summer she'll drive the beverage cart at the Wapicada Golf Course east of St. Cloud. Hendrickson spends afternoons and evenings cruising around Wapicada's 18-hole course looking for thirsty golfers.

She's majoring in public relations and travel at SCSU. But school work isn't on her mind right now.

"This summer instead of taking summer classes, I'm working two jobs and I'm trying to save up all my money for rent or for college," Hendrickson says.

Hendrickson will have to save more money this year. She expects her tuition will be $500 higher than it was last year.

St. Cloud State University is going to ask the MnSCU Board for a 15-percent increase in tuition in July. School officials say the increase is necessary because they expect less funding from the state.

The potential increase worries Hendrickson. She pays for college on her own with help from student loans.

The rising cost of tuition has driven students and their parents to seek more help at the financial aid office at St. Cloud State. Financial aid representatives lay out several options to help students with their tuition. There are federal and state grants for students with the greatest need. There are also loans available from the federal government. And the aid office can also offer work-study jobs for students.

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Image Frank Loncorich

Frank Loncorich, the director of scholarships and financial aid at SCSU, thinks they do a good job finding money for students. Despite that he says higher tuition bills are stressful. He offers students this advice.

"Don't lose sight of their dream and pursue their education, but perhaps become more focused, consciously look out four years in planning your program. Get in, get good grades, and try to graduate as quickly as you can," Loncorich says.

Tuition rates have risen all across the country at public colleges over the past few years. Tim Lane is vice president of Tuition Financing at TIAA-CREF. TIAA-CREFF manages 529 plans, a college savings fund, in 13 states. Lane says public colleges were able to hold back tuition rates during the 1990s.

"It's almost like water building behind a dam. A confluence of events, tough budget woes for the states, plus the fact that they held down tuition creates this sort of big increases all at once," Lane says.

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Image Jennie Schaaf

Lane says the latest tuition rate increases should be a lesson for parents with small children. He says they should start a regular savings plan for their child's college education and treat it like a bill they have to pay every month.

Students stuck with a higher tuition bills now say there's not much they can do. Jennie Schaaf is spending her summer processing applications at the SCSU financial aid office. The job pays $7 an hour. Schaaf says most of that money will go to cover rent and other living expenses. Her parents will pitch in for some of her higher tuition bill. She'll also take out more loans. Her bill for four years of college will be close to $45,000.

"I guess I don't think of it cause I'm not paying the loans now, but it won't be very much fun in the long run. I'll be paying them until I'm like 50," Schaaf says.

Financial experts say borrowing for a college education is always a good investment. And even though tuition is going up low interest rates will ease the burden on students. Right now the repayment rate for a government subsidized student loan is less than 3.5 percent.

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