It’s hard to believe. Could students and their families really be paying almost 70% of their college costs, even at Tennessee state schools? And could community college students really be carrying 60% of the financial burden for their education?

After all, many of us can still remember when it was the exact opposite: the state of Tennessee used to cover 70% so students only had to take on 30%. That was the balance up until the 1980s.

Now, with taxes high and incomes low, families have to cover more of the bill at state schools than ever before. What’s worse, these numbers don’t include residence hall rent costs, meal plans, books, or supplies.

The Commercial Appeal reported on this issue recently after John Morgan, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, gave these numbers to a U.S. Senate committee.

The high cost of education in Tennessee has caused enrollment at state colleges to decrease. State leaders are concerned that the future of subsidized education depends on making it more affordable.

This reluctance to enroll in expensive schooling might also reflect a growing (and I think healthy) fear of student debt. Astronomical student loans may help you get a college degree, but they can also stay with you for life and demand huge percentages of your future paycheck. These debts can prevent you from investing money in a house or even a family. And for now there’s no way to get rid of them if you find yourself unable to make the payments.

Education costs do need to decrease. But until that happens, students and their families should be very careful. Student debt can be a greater burden than it’s worth sometimes; and when that happens, the state and the student don’t benefit. The banks, however, do.

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Read my article “Student Loans and Bankruptcy: Options for When You Can’t Pay Your Education Loans