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College Tuition Is Not Always What It Seems
Looking at college tuition numbers can give you a serious case of sticker shock, especially if you have a child nearing graduation or are planning to help with tuition for a grandchild. But it is important to note that the posted tuition might not be what you actually end up paying.
The venerable Princeton Review released its annual list of best-value colleges, and Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., takes the top spot among private colleges. With a price tag of $58,900 per year, how can that be? It’s because the average incoming freshman gets $39,600 in grants.
The schools rounding out the Princeton Review list of top 10 best-value private colleges are Harvard College in Cambridge, Mass.; Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa.; Yale University in New Haven, Conn.; Princeton University in Princeton, N.J.; The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York; Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.; Amherst College in Amherst, Mass.; and Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.
The bargains might be even better at public schools. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – the top public school on the list -- the cost of tuition, room and board, and fees for an incoming in-state freshman is $18,609; the average grant is $13,982.
The rest of the top 10 best-value public colleges are New College of Florida in Sarasota; the University of Virginia in Charlottesville; North Carolina State University in Raleigh; the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; the University of California at Los Angeles; the University of Florida in Gainesville; the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.; Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo.; and the State University of New York at Binghamton. (It is important to note, though, that out-of-state tuition is much higher than in-state tuition at public colleges.)
There are a total of 75 public and 75 private schools on the Princeton Review list of best-value colleges. Other publications also list schools that are a good value, and often the same schools appear on multiple lists. For example, Harvard is the top school on the U.S. News and World Report list of best-value schools. According to the publication, 59 percent of Harvard students get need-based grants, and the actual cost of attending Harvard – after accounting for the grants – is $15,486 a year.
The point is that you should not automatically assume that the amount listed on the school web site is what you or your student ultimately will pay. Especially if you feel your student will qualify for need-based aid and for admission at a particular college, don’t be afraid to reach for the stars. After all, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
One final note: If your student is a particularly qualified – with excellent grades, exceptional abilities in extracurricular activities, etc. – schools often are willing to up the ante.