Avenues To Higher Education

Don’t Be Scared Away by College Sticker Price

By Gwen Part on July 6, 2017

White Piggy Bank on Wood

It is a common misconception among high school students and their parents and families that state universities are significantly more affordable than private schools. However, college sticker prices can be deceiving.

Indeed, the tuition and fees at private colleges and universities are expensive. According to U.S. News & World Report, “The cost of attending one of the top 10 priciest private schools in 2016-2017, on average, amounts to $52,828 in tuition and fees for those who pay at the full rate.” That price does not include room and board, food and transportation, books and supplies, or other personal or miscellaneous expenses. The approximate cost of tuition and fees at a California State University or University of California campus ranges from $12,500 to $13,500.

Although the differences between those prices may initially cause sticker shock, I encourage families to focus on one fact. The prices for attendance at private schools are “…for those who pay at the full rate.” In the United States, statistics report between 75% and 85% of full-time students attending 4-year colleges or universities receive some form of financial aid. After taking a student’s full financial aid package into account, the price to attend a private college or university may be less than attending a state school. The following article from Los Angeles Times reporter Rosanna Xia is a great illustration of this phenomenon:

These small, little-known colleges may be more affordable than you think.

With so many factors weighing into the decision-making process, don’t let sticker price rule you out too soon.

  • Apply to the schools you love, regardless of their sticker price.
  • Complete and submit your FAFSA early.
  • Complete and submit your college applications early.
    • Some schools distribute some financial awards on a rolling basis. They may be able to provide a better financial aid package if you apply and are offered admission earlier in the process.

You might be surprised to find that the real cost to attend your dream school is less than you expected.