The numbers are alarming. The real cost of a college education in the United States has grown more than 100 percent over the last three decades, a rate that is exponentially higher than the wage increases and cost of living adjustments of most Americans, says Eugene J. Cornacchia, president of Saint Peter’s College in New Jersey, for the Washington Post. The latest figures from the College Board put the average cost for 2011-2012, including tuition, fees, room and board, at $17,131 for four-year public colleges (a 6 percent increase over the previous year) and $38,589 for private, nonprofit institutions (a 4.4 percent increase over the previous year). At this rate, it is estimated that a private, four-year undergraduate education will cost $280,000 or more when today’s preschoolers enter higher education in 2026. Perception, for the most part, has driven the national dialogue about the rising price of college. One view, held among elected officials, the media and even the general public, is that gold-plated amenities, prestige games among colleges and universities and bloated administrations are chiefly responsible for escalating costs that take an increasing share of middle-class incomes and price the less-privileged out of a college education…

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