The True Price of Private Colleges: Why Sticker Price Doesn’t Matter

One of the most important reasons we created MyCollegePrice was to help people discover new affordable options for college. Students might discover new schools that they hadn’t even heard of simply by looking at their list of college matches. But, students and their families may also be overlooking great potential colleges that they know about but think are just too expensive.

This is a common issue with private colleges specifically, which tend to have higher prices listed on their website. What many people don’t realize is that a lot of private colleges offer very generous institutional and merit scholarship packages for many of the students they admit.

Public and Private College Tuition

Many students look at the “sticker price” of private colleges and decide not to even apply because it seems too expensive.

They might decide to attend a large public university that seem to be much more affordable (especially if they are in-state), even though these colleges tend to offer very few scholarships to even some of the best students. The truth is that even though public colleges may appear to be cheaper than most private institutions, it’s likely that the student could have attended a private university for much cheaper than the sticker price once they consider institutional scholarships and merit aid that they qualify for.

That’s where MyCollegePrice comes in. With our cost calculator, it’s simple for students and their families to understand what their realistic cost of attendance might be at any one of more than 1500 colleges and universities. In addition to that, students can analyze each of their college matches and see how they would fit in on that campus.

Take this scenario for example:

A male student living in Connecticut is looking at colleges. He has a GPA of 3.8 (unweighted) and an ACT score of 32.

His parents are married and both work. They make $100,000 combined with $50,000 in assets. The student works a part time job and makes $5,000 with less than $2,500 in assets.

Looking at two schools this student may consider, their websites would show a huge difference in sticker prices:

Wesleyan University: $61,024
University of Connecticut (in-state): $23,875

Now, if you only consider the sticker price of these two schools, clearly Wesleyan is much more expensive — nearly three times as much — and out of the realistic price range for most families (a total cost of nearly $250,000 over four years).

But, the sticker price isn’t the full story. In fact, if you put this student’s information into MyCollegePrice, it’s clear that Wesleyan is not only a better academic fit for this student, but also likely to cost almost the exact same amount as UConn.

Take a look at this screenshot, directly from this student’s college match list:

What does this show us? That Wesleyan University — despite having a sticker price of twice as much — is likely to cost this student about the same. Despite the price listed on its website, Wesleyan is actually one of the most affordable options for this student in the state of Connecticut.

Of course, there are other factors to consider when choosing a college besides simply the costs (majors, campus size, etc), but this example isn’t an uncommon one. It’s likely that most students could use MyCollegePrice to discover colleges that seem too expensive but are really a great choice in terms of fit and price.

So, what should students and families take away from this? That the “sticker price” for schools is often irrelevant or even misleading. The net price is what will determine how much the student actually pays, and how much debt they may incur to attend school. MyCollegePrice can help figure out which schools are really the most affordable options for you.





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