By David Madden

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CBS) – The cost of a college education was front and center at a round table discussion hosted by South Jersey congressman Donald Norcross Thursday.

Students, educators and college administrators met to hash out concerns at Cherry Hill West High School.

Any parent certainly knows the challenge of putting kids through college. Cherry Hill West Principal Kwame Morton , a parent of ten, drives home the point to his kids about a program Rowan University offers through community colleges to keep costs down.

“The three year degree for less than $30,000. That’s primary on our refrigerator,” Morton said, “because we want to constantly reinforce the fact that it’s important for our kids to go through school without incurring a great deal of debt.”

The kids get it.

“My parents make too much money even though I don’t live with them,” Camden County College student Natalie Jimenez said. “It was hard for me to get financial aid and sadly, when I was in high school, I didn’t really have anyone to advise me on all the paths that I could take in order to afford college.”

“We had preliminary personal finance courses at the high school level, but I feel like they truly don’t go and delve into how this will really affect you in the long term,” adds Christina Cover, a graduate of Lenape High School now attend Rowan College at Burlington County. “I’ve had friends and family come back and forth from school and say ‘hey, it was expensive and I wasn’t getting what I needed’.”

Natalie Jimenez (center) and Christina Cover (right) at the round table. (Credit: David Madden)

Natalie Jimenez (center) and Christina Cover (right) at the round table. (Credit: David Madden)

College officials outlined the challenges on their end. Administrators like Cherry Hill Superintendent Joseph Meloche get it from all sides.

“We hear from a lot of families with the challenges that they face when their children graduate from here,” he said. “We want to be part of helping to build and helping to provide opportunity beyond, not to be crushing dreams for kids as they come out of high schools.”

For his part, Norcross pointed out he has a son now attending medical school and noted that the cost of higher education is “dragging down our economy and more importantly our children. We must come up with a collective solution to make college more affordable and accessible.”