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confronting cost

As families pack the 18-year-olds off for college right about now, they've hopefully confronted the cost of tuition, room and board, and health care. Then there's the cost of textbooks. One estimate figures the average is $600 for books and materials per year, another estimate runs twice that. Some students save money by renting or buying used textbooks. Others, given the cost, don't get the books at all.

In Washington D.C. this week, House lawmakers advanced a bill that could make it easier for students and families to manage debt by combining four college tax benefits into a single one. The idea, supporters say, is to reduce some of the confusion that exists around paying for college. Despite current tax credits, student loan debt in the United States has skyrocketed over $1 trillion.

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A new report out this week from the Brookings Institution looks at more than two decades of financial data, specifically how Americans are paying for higher education. The report finds the student debt crisis that we've all been hearing about isn't actually as bad as the public – and the media – often makes it out to be. WGBH’s Kirk Carapezza sat down with Beth Akers, a co-author of the report, to talk about the controversial findings.

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The documentary film Ivory Tower, which opens in Boston on Friday, explores the much-debated question of whether the cost of college is worth it. On Campus spoke with the director Andrew Rossi. 

It's eight in the morning, and Debra Zhang is heading to work. She grabs her keys and umbrella, slips on her shoes, and steps on to Boylston Street in Boston's Fenway neighborhood.

Zhang is one of the more than 800,000 international students that attended American colleges and universities last year -- more than 46,000 of them in Massachusetts. And schools are expecting a spike this fall. This trend has implications both for international and domestic students.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted against a bill filed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that would allow college graduates to refinance their outstanding student loans at lower interest rates. 

Despite the public outcry about mounting student loan debt, Republican leaders widely dismissed the measure as a progressive political stunt during an election year because it called for a new tax on millionaires and billionaires to cover the cost. 

After decades of rising costs, students are less willing and able to pay a premium for college education. Many families are asking whether college is worth it. And that question has been posed repeatedly in recent headlines. From a New York Times op-ed to NPR's Education Blog, many pundits are making their voices heard.

For those who don't want to slog through every op-ed and article, WGBH’s On Campus has aggregated highlights in one place.

So… is college worth it?

How low can college sticker prices go? Southern New Hampshire University announced this month it will offer the country's first fully-accredited $10,000 bachelor's degree online.

The Manchester-based university is partnering with more than 50 employers - from Blue Cross Blue Shield to McDonald's - to offer degrees aimed at working adults.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is renewing her effort to help former college students pay back their student loan debt. 

Warren wants to bring high student loan interest rates down to the rates that are offered to new borrowers this year.

Earlier this week, WGBH’s On Campus caught up with the senator shortly after she left the floor of the Senate where she filed a bill to do just that. 

Melanie Daye has worked hard her whole life and is proud she’s achieved a piece of the American dream, owning her own home in Hyde Park in Boston. She says her greatest accomplishment, though, was singlehandedly raising her two boys -- and sending them both to college.

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