Paying for a college education isn't getting any easier-four-year public colleges have increased tuition by 8.3 percent this year, according to a recent report from the College Board. And students and their parents are picking up more of the tab as states are unable to provide more financial aid.
That presents a daunting challenge for parents like Sandy Dennison, of Belpre, whose daughter, Kiana, will enter a four-year institution next fall.
"We've been looking for the best way to get a loan but we know it's going to be stressful, especially when she's planning to go to med school," she said.
Kiana already has some college credits under her belt, thanks to Post Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) offered in the state of Ohio that allow students to take some college-level courses while they're still in high school.
She'll receive certificates in arts and sciences and biology science from Washington State Community College by the end of this school year. After that Kiana, like most college-bound students, will rely on state and federal grants and loans to continue her college career.
The College Board reports that four-year public colleges currently charge, on average, $7,605 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students and $11,990 for full-time out-of-state students. The average charge at private nonprofit four-year colleges is $27,293 per year in tuition and fees.
Marietta College sophomore Zach Hill of Marietta is studying business and sports management.
"It's not difficult to get a loan for college," he said. "But knowing you'll have to pay it off can be difficult."
Factoring in room, board, tuition and fees, a year at Marietta College costs more than $38,000, according to the college website, which also says 91 percent of students receive some type of financial aid.
Hill said some of his friends have thought about transferring to other schools because their college cost is simply too much.
Ethan Batten of Spencer, W.Va., is also a sophomore at Marietta College, studying petroleum engineering.
He's been able to obtain some financial aid and his parents have helped with loans.
"The bad thing is that my sister and I are both attending school here," he said. "But I want to take over my loan repayment when I'm through."
Batten believes the cost to attend Marietta College will be worth it in the long run.
"When looking at resumes people see what school you've attended and this school is known for its petroleum engineering program," he said. "So I think it will be worth it."
Public two-year colleges charge, on average, $2,713 per year in tuition and fees.
That's one reason Jason Edgar of Marietta, a freshman at WSCC, chose to take a physical therapy assistant course at the local institution.
"I was looking at other schools but I didn't have the finances," he said. "So I got some financial aid and entered the two-year program here."
Edgar said with the high cost of education at a four-year school, it made more sense for him to begin at a smaller two-year college and transfer to a four-year facility later if he wants.
According to the Associated Press, the federal government has substantially increased spending on financial aid under the last three presidents but at the same time the government has done little to rein in college price increases.
Coolville resident Brent Deeter is enrolled in WSCC's mechanical engineering program. While he's received some financial aid for tuition, it's the cost of books that has hurt the most.
"My books cost between $500 to $600 for machine shop this quarter," he said. "But it's still a lot cheaper than going to a four-year school.
"I looked at other four-year schools, but the cost of every one was too high for me," Deeter added. "I just want to get my career started without having to go into debt."
He said a friend is attending a four-year institution.
"But I'll pay a fourth of what he will over the same period of time, even though he received a $10,000 scholarship," Deeter said. "I could have attended here for free with a $10,000 scholarship."
Doug Bosner, of Waterford, is using the GI Bill funding he earned while serving with the U.S. Army to pay for his college education at WSCC.
"When I got out of the service I worked at Eramet for two years before I was laid off," he said. "We had just bought a home and I didn't want to uproot my family and move out of this area. So I used my GI Bill to take mechanical engineering at Washington State. I'll receive an associate's degree here and can later transfer the credits to a teleconferencing course through Miami of Ohio University."