What is the Real Cost of College?

What is the Real Cost of College?

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

-Benjamin Franklin

Reports on the high price of college and mounting student debt are all over the news. So how can you be confident you are making a wise investment in their college education?

Every student will pay a different amount for college. The amount you pay is partly determined by the college you attend (both tuition and the financial resources available vary widely). In addition, your academic credentials, special talents, and financial circumstances play a role in what merit scholarships and/or need-based aid you are offered.

Figuring out exactly what college will cost you:

First, you’ll need to research your college’s “sticker price,” or cost of attendance. This includes tuition, with room and board for students living on campus, and other indirect costs like transportation, books, and supplies. These costs tend to increase every year due to a number of factors, including inflation, rising costs of living, and improvement projects on campus. Interestingly, while tuition fees are commonly considered to be high, they still only cover about half the actual cost of educating a student, meaning that all colleges subsidize the cost of attendance to some degree.

Considering a private university but having “sticker shock?” While it is true that private schools tend to have higher tuition than public, private colleges may also have more financial resources to make attendance more affordable. During your college application process, admissions officers will determine how much financial help they can give depending on your circumstances. This can sometimes make a private college just as affordable as a public one. So, how can you determine which schools make financial sense for you?

How do colleges determine individual aid packages and scholarships? 

Colleges are now required to use a tool called a Net Price Calculator (NPC) to increase financial aid transparency. By plugging your family’s financial information anonymously into this tool, you will see what financial aid and scholarships might be available to you, thus getting an estimate of what that college would ultimately cost you by indicating. Each college uses a different methodology to determine a student’s financial aid package, so you should visit each school’s NPC during the college search process. Some NPCs ask more questions and can be more cumbersome to complete, but these are generally more accurate. It is important to note, however, that even the most accurate NPCs are just estimates. Only the full evaluation of your  admissions and financial aid application (usually comprised of some combination of the FAFSA, CSS Profile, tax returns, and institution-specific forms) will determine your exact package.

College will be one of the largest and most important investments you make in your life, so take the time to do some research, and invest in your future with confidence.

Still need help deciding what school is right for you? We can help!

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Beth Onofry

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