Private College Sticker Shock
The real cost of private, higher education
As high school juniors and seniors kick off their college search, they will find tuition is higher than ever. Many students and their parents will immediately eliminate private colleges and universities from consideration due to sticker shock -- tuition often upwards of $15,000 per year.
While public universities have lower tuition rates, the fact is private colleges offer competitive pricing and financing. According to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), the average debt of students leaving public four-year and private four-year colleges is similar -- $12,000 and $14,300 respectively.
The recent study of America's 1600 independent colleges and universities also showed some surprising demographic information. The proportion of enrolled students from families earning less than $30,000 a year is the same as students from families earning more than $75,000 a year.
So how are students able to afford a private education? What makes the difference on the financial bottom-line for parents?
You Rarely Pay the Sticker Price
Dr. Robert Pearce, president of Mount Mercy College -- a four-year Catholic, professional and liberal arts college in Cedar Rapids, Iowa -- knows and appreciates both private and public educational institutions. Over his 34-year career, Pearce has worked at public universities as well as independent colleges.
"Many high school students immediately eliminate private colleges because they don't think they can afford them," he says. "They miss out on the opportunities for financial support, specifically financial aid funded by the college."
According to NAICU, students at independent schools receive more than four times as much grant aid from institutional sources as comes from federal sources. Almost all private colleges offer their undergraduate students institutional aid of some sort including scholarships, grants, loans and/or work-study programs.
Beyond institutional aid, individual states offer tuition grants for residents attending private colleges and universities. "Many states provide tuition equalization grants for residents who attend in-state colleges. For example, the Iowa Tuition Grant is $4,000 for qualified Iowa residents," Pearce says.
Graduate in Four Years
When parents and students meet with financial aid counselors to crunch the numbers, they must consider how quickly the student can complete their degree. Those who finish in four years, not only save a year of tuition in comparison to the five-year student, they will also have a year of earnings under their belt.
"The goal is to graduate in a timely manner," Pearce says. "Time is money, and you have to consider if the college's programs and enrollment will realistically allow you to graduate in four years."
Private colleges and universities have the edge on graduation rates. A study on completion rates by the U.S. Department of Education shows 65 percent of students who received a bachelor's degree from an independent college or university were able to complete their degrees in four years or less, compared to 34 percent of graduates of state institutions.
Decide If a Private College is a Good Fit
Grants, loans, scholarships, state tuition grants and work-study programs can all make a private education an affordable option for students. The most important consideration, according to Pearce, is asking where you will be happiest.
He says, "Students have to consider some fundamental issues when considering a college or university: What institution has the program I want? Where am I going to be happy? Size, attention, participation, activities and religious identity all factor into deciding what school would be a good fit."
For more information about private colleges, visit the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities Web site at www.naicu.edu.
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This article courtesy of ARA Content, http://www.aracontent.com