(CNN) - If you want a solid education then it's going to cost you. The cost of higher education has surged more than 500 percent since 1985.
"I started saving when he was 2, and he's 19, and it's never enough," said Patricia Rodriguez, who's struggling to pay for son's college tuition.
Rodriguez needs $13,000.
"Where do you get an extra $1,200 a month," she said.
Her son, Jason, is a sophomore at the University of Hartford. But Patricia's savings are gone.
She's not alone. Nothing in American life has risen in price so quickly as the cost of college.
"I think the universities are the biggest scam going in America, the costs, there's no reason that a college education should cost thousands of dollars a year," said editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal Stephen Moore.
Why is it so expensive? Some say the easy money available to students has created a tuition bubble. Others say it's simple economics.
"You have to go to college to get ahead. At the same time, it's not as if new colleges are opening up all over America the way like let's say a new airline might start up," said Rick Newman, columnist for Yahoo! Finance. "We basically have a fixed amount of supply and when demand is going up and supply isn't, prices rise."
Grants and scholarships only cover about 30 percent of college costs, so students have to find or borrow the rest.
Two-thirds of college grads have loan debt , averaging more than $26,000. Others have much more.
"Right now I'm almost $60,000 in debt, which will affect my ability to get a mortgage, to have children and put them through a good education, and it will affect what kinds of jobs that I choose," student Rachel Bohr said.
And jobs are what it's all about. Americans with a college education are more likely to be employed and they earn more money. But in this economy, there are no guarantees.
More than 36 percent of recent grads are working in jobs that do not require a college degree.
That's why the country's most famous student loan recipient wants to hold colleges accountable.
"What we want to do is rate them on who's offering the best value so students and taxpayers get a bigger bang for their buck," President Barack Obama said.
But finding the bucks in the first place, that's the real struggle for parents like Rodriguez.
"All you want is your kid to go to school and do well, and that's what he's doing. And we don't have the money," she said.
Few Americans will, if college costs keep rising.