2011-2012 California College Costs estimates

I recently got some mail from the California 529 plan, called Scholarshare.  At the moment, California’s Scholarshare 529 is managed by Fidelity, but that’s about to change, and this may be worth investigating for those who are already in it – if you like Fidelity and Fidelity’s investment options and expenses (and the integration with Fidelity’s website) – you may want to consider opening a new 529 at Fidelity associated with one of the other states for which Fidelity manages 529 plans.  California does not give any tax break for 529 contributions so there’s no state tax reason to be invested in California’s 529 plan if you are a California resident.

Anyway, that’s an aside.  The insert in the mail I got had an “Undergraduate Resident Mandatory Fee Comparions for 2010-2011” chart.  All well and good but that’s, um, last year’s information and it’s a little late for that.  However, it included a link to the source for the data:  http://www.californiacolleges.edu/finance/how-much-does-college-cost.asp

Well worth reading that page, as it offers lots more detail – and 2011-2012 year estimates.  First off, the 2011-2012 numbers:

Fees/Tuition only — this is NOT everything which may be paid for with 529 money, but it’s generally the biggest part:

California Community Colleges: $864
California State University (CSU): $6489
University of California (UC): $13,200
California Independent Colleges (median): $30,144

Note that the typical live-on-campus student may have anywhere from $12000-$15000 additional annual costs.

Now here’s an especially interesting addendum – the numbers from 2010-2011 school year:

California Community Colleges: $624
California State University (CSU): $5131
University of California (UC): $11300
California Independent Colleges (median): $30,144

I have no idea why the private costs didn’t show a year-to-year change, but the public school costs all went up by a lot:

Annual increases (%)
California Community Colleges: 38% increase
California State University (CSU): 26.5% increase
University of California (UC): 16.8% increase

Of course, these tuition amounts are still massively subsidized by the state, but that doesn’t change the fact that if you’re going to be paying them out of pocket, you’re in for a lot of increased financial pain.  Private school costs have been increasing very much faster than broader inflation, but effective public school costs have been increasing a lot faster as states tax resources are getting squeezed harder.

The bottom line – save a lot, save early, save effectively and save efficiently.  There are a whole wide array of possible vehicles to use to do this, some with substantial tax advantages.  But start soon.

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