The Cost of College – An Education In Inflation

Written By: Travis Denkenberger

Attending Harvard will cost $475,000 in 2036.

Wait, what? That was the headline that greeted me on my phone screen at 5:30 AM when my alarm went off. Admittedly, I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to financial projections. So let me take you through the workings of my un-caffeinated mind at this time of morning. What does this number include? How are they arriving at this projection? This is HARVARD, how does this compare to more “accessible” education? Once I had my morning coffee (came alive) I began to dig in. After a little reading and research, I found that the cost was derived from Department of Education data and annual inflation projections and included tuition, room and board, supplies, and “other expenses” that were not defined 18 years from now. Conveniently, Harvard was the most expensive of six schools used in the projections. However, of the other schools listed, UCLA was the cheapest (eh-hem) most cost-effective school on the list at $394,000. The projections also gave averages for 4-year private universities and 4-year public universities. $303,000 and $184,000 respectively. The bottom line is this…The numbers, sticker shock aside, portray an accurate representation of projected costs to send a student to school in 18 years.

So what can you do about it today?

Well, most simply put, plan. The implications of the rising costs of college are the subject of great debate. However, the impact that college education has on the entire financial outlook of not just an individual, but a family is rarely discussed.

Consider the following.

Parents who save for children’s college education do so, in most cases as an alternative to saving for their own retirement or future spending goals. Students who elect to take on debt to pay for education are increasingly more common than in previous decades and spend a large portion of their working life paying back that debt. A large portion of a family’s entire economic resources can be devoted to education costs. A family that chooses to take a combined approach of savings and taking on loans could conceivably save for college for fifteen to eighteen years AND the student could still graduate owing more than $50,000 in student loan debt that would take them another twenty-plus year to pay back. We are talking about an economic impact to a family that could potentially last across 4 decades and two generations (or more). Everyone has a different situation and family dynamic. If you have a potential future college student (or a current student or a recent graduate) seek professional guidance.

Ask questions.

Become educated.

Most importantly, go forward confidently and with a plan.

If you would like to schedule a complimentary Life Planning session, please contact Travis at

Citation: Nova, A. (2018, May 17). Attending Harvard will cost $475,000 in 2036. Here’s how much other schools will charge. Retrieved May 17, 2018, from

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