By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily
It’s expensive to go to college.
And once parents and students start focusing on it, there’s a lot of sticker shock, Cheyenne financial advisor Bryan Pedersen said.
So to help get that college expense conversation started in advance, Pedersen — as he has for the last 10 years — has posted the NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket along with the average cost for getting a four-year degree for every school that has qualified.
And while Wyoming’s appearance in the NCAA Tournament this year might be a bit of a surprise to some, Pedersen’s figures will be less of a surprise — they show the University of Wyoming is among the best bargains of any of the tournament-bound schools.
Pedersen, who serves as senior vice president for RBC Wealth Management, says his annual post gets a lot of attention because of the interest in March Madness.
The tournament bracket, combined with comparisons of the costs of different schools across the country, gets parents focused on college costs and how much they are going to have to dole out for their college-bound children, he said.
“It’s fascinating when you see these costs in black and white,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday, noting college costs increase by 7% each year, compared to an annual inflation rate of 3%. “People are always getting sticker-shocked.”
He doesn’t just post the bracket for fun, although he says people enjoy looking at it. It’s also good for business.
“We help people plan for college savings,” he said. “Maybe open a college savings account for their kid where can they take money from current investment strategies to move into college costs. This helps to start having those conversations.”
There’s even more interest this year because, for the first time since 2015, the University of Wyoming is included and Pedersen, a UW grad, took the time to promote his alma mater.
“My wife and I both went to the University of Wyoming and I’d like to see my kids go to UW,” Pedersen said. “I got a great education there.”
UW A Great Bargain
By going to the University of Wyoming, a student can save a lot of money compared to most of the schools in the tournament.
Looking at out-of-state costs for the 68 schools in the tournament, Wyoming is in the lower price quadrant with a four-year education (including tuition, fees, room and board), costing an estimated $133,001.69.
That tops Wyoming’s opponent on Tuesday, the University of Indiana, by just less than $1,000 as the total cost to be a Hoosier is $132,144.04.
The most expensive school in the tournament is Duke at a cost just over $326,210, with Yale right behind clocking in at $325,278.
On the other end, South Dakota State is the most economical school at $87,283 followed by Murray State ($103,000) and Jacksonville State ($121,116).
The average cost for college of all four-year universities is $109,320.
The real way to save money though, Pedersen said, is for Wyoming students to take advantage of the “super-low” cost of in-state tuition which is about half the cost of out-of-state tuition.
“The University of Wyoming is extremely underrated in its value,” Pedersen said. “It’s a great bargain. It’s a great school.”
Pedersen said paying extra at a more prestigious college for an undergraduate degree is probably not cost-effective.
He said going to a top-tier school for a graduate degree may be worth the expense, however.
“When you pursue a graduate level degree, it could be worth it to spend the money,” he said. “People can make some pretty good connections and employers are much more apt to pay attention to the schools at the graduate level.”
As for Pedersen’s kids, he prefers the lowest cost option. “All of my kids need to get scholarships so I can save money wherever they go.”
As for the brackets, the Wyoming native has the Cowboys going all the way in the tournament.
“I’ve got the Pokes winning it all because you have to believe,” he said.