Is college worth the money?

Is higher education the next financial bubble ready to burst?

Tuition and fees at community colleges in Minnesota and Wisconsin are among the highest of any state in the nation. And tuition hikes at Minnesota public colleges are running a lot faster than income growth in this decade.

There are lots of different explanations for this. But let’s not go there right now. The reality is that despite attempts by some schools to ease the cost burden in tough times, schools are boosting tuition at a clip faster than family incomes are rising.

At some point something’s gotta give.

My MPR News colleague Bob Collins today posted a link to a compelling opinion piece that noted: “Consumers who have questioned whether it is worth spending $1,000 a square foot for a home are now asking whether it is worth spending $1,000 a week to send their kids to college.”

Minnesota’s supply of high school graduates, growing since the early 1990s, is expected to peak this month and then decline through 2015. So at the same time the region’s colleges face a shrinking supply of freshmen, they will be adding to a tuition burden that’s among the highest in the country, during the deepest recession in more than 25 years.

That doesn’t sound sustainable.

There’s no doubt the financial payoff of a college degree remains strong. But at what point to Americans start seriously looking for alternatives to the traditional U.S. college education?

How about Canada, where the exchange rate is favorable and the government is making it easy these days to explore college options?

So is college worth the money? Do you see the time coming when the traditional Minnesota college education won’t be worth its cost? What alternatives are out there? I’d love to hear from folks.

If you know someone who’s trying to plan for college or stay in college in this economy, drop a line and share a story.

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