Dramatic increases in the cost of a college education are putting a strain on families all over America.

Collin Binkley and Abby Smith of the Columbus Dispatch report.

Families forced to cope with the rising cost of college

WASHINGTON — As a student at Ohio University in 1975, Margaret Lyons paid her $150 quarterly tuition ––$650 in today’s dollars when adjusted for inflation –– by working as a waitress during the summer.

A generation later, when her two children graduated from the same school in Athens, their summer jobs couldn’t even begin to pay for the $2,400 per-quarter tuition.

“They couldn’t make that kind of money if they tried,’’ said Lyons, 62, who lives in Bexley.

That type of sticker shock is crushing hundreds of thousands of families across the country as they cope with the harsh reality of skyrocketing college costs.

Since 1978, costs for tuition and room and board at private universities — adjusted for inflation — have increased by 403 percent, while public universities have seen a 428 percent increase for tuition and room and board, according to an analysis by the College Board Advocacy Policy Center.

At Ohio State University, which has frozen tuition costs four times since 2006, tuition has leaped from $915 annually 35 years ago (or $3,276 in 2013 dollars) to $10,037, an increase of 326 percent after inflation.

The rising cost of college — coupled with a tight job market — has left many graduates with low job prospects and high debt. Although escalating costs have caused many students to question the value of their college education, Lyons said students have little choice but to pay the price.

Kelsey Redmond, a Cincinnati native who every year spends the equivalent of a new Toyota Prius on her education at Miami University in Oxford, agreed, saying, “It is so competitive with jobs. If it’s just a high-school degree, you can’t really move up too high or get a job in the first place.”