CHICAGO (CBS) — The Morning Insiders examine the shockingly high cost of higher education. The tab at the University of Chicago totals more than $80,000 a year, one of the highest in the country.

CBS 2’s Lauren Victory spoke to a freshman who is just starting classes, and whose parents are paying full price.

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“It just felt like, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to be paying this much money just to go to some classes?’” said Nico Giunta, as he prepared to start his first year at the University of Chicago on Tuesday.

Tuition has risen to approximately $57,000 this year. Add student life fees, room and meals, books and other personal expenses, and the total cost per year is more than $80,000.

That’s more than $320,000 if he graduates in four years, and Giunta needs to foot the whole bill.

He invited CBS 2 into his dorm room to talk about some of his concerns about attending one of the most expensive universities in the U.S.

“There’s like this little doubt in your head that, like, is this worth it? And I don’t know. We’ll see, I guess,” he said.

His doubts are certainly reasonable. The cost of being a Maroon has increased almost $3,000 since last year.

“I feel like it’s a reality of, like, being a student in this generation where college prices have risen so much,” Giunta said.

Students like him, who don’t receive any scholarships or grants to help with college costs, are left finding ways to reduce their debt.

“I’ll be working in one of the coffee shops; like, maybe just one or two days a week. Every little bit counts,” he said.

The University of Chicago does offer financial aid and scholarships to many of its students. Households earning less than $125,000 a year get free tuition. Students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year also get free room and board.

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Freshman Ryan Hoang is benefitting from one of those programs.

“I’m actually a lower-income student, so even though the tuition is high, they gave me a great scholarship, and I’m actually on a full-ride right now,” he said. “I’m super grateful for it, because I might not have been able to come if it wasn’t for that.”

Despite having to pay the whole cost of his University of Chicago education himself, Giunta still feels lucky too.

“I think I’m pretty fortunate, in that my parents saved a lot of money,” he said.

They better keep saving. A close examination of the university’s website shows another requirement that could add up: health insurance. The college plan costs $4,300 a year.

The school released the following information regarding cost:

“As of 2018, UChicago guarantees free tuition for families with incomes under $125,000 per year (with typical assets).

    • Families earning less than $60,000 (with typical assets) have full tuition, fees, room and board covered by financial aid.
    • The average financial aid award for first-year students is more than $50,000.

UChicago has eliminated student loans from need-based financial aid packages – this has dramatically reduced student debt upon graduation.

    • In 2008 when the first phase of this effort began, 60% of UChicago students were awarded federal loans.
    • In 2014 the removal of the student loan expectation was expanded to cover everyone receiving financial aid.
    • Now 8% of first-year UChicago students have loans, and the average loan indebtedness across all graduating students is under $7,000.

UChicago is a leader in providing access for first-generation college students.

    • Students who are the first in their families to attend college receive a $20,000 scholarship over four years and a guaranteed paid internship for their first summer.
    • UChicago offers undergraduates more than 2,800 paid internships annually – far more than most peers – contributing to their success during college and after graduation.

The undergraduate financial aid budget for FY 2020 is $166 million.

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    • That’s more than double the figure from 2010, which was $76 million.

For many years, the full cost of a UChicago education has been higher than the amount covered by tuition. Generous philanthropy is essential to make up the difference.”

Lauren Victory