Students Rarely Pay 'Full Sticker Price' at Private College

Article excerpt

Byline: Charles Middleton

You may have read recently, as I did, that the president of Harvard University announced tuition would be free at Harvard for all qualified students whose parents earn less than $40,000 per year and substantially discounted for those families who earn $40,000 to $60,000.

That's great news for the select few who attend Harvard, but what does it have to do with your family or my university? Plenty. This action by Harvard, one of the premier American universities, calls attention to a neglected fact about private higher education: Students rarely pay the stated tuition rate.

That's right. Odds are you won't be required to pay the full sticker price of a private education. In fact, most private universities will help you manage your finances and make the costs of attending as affordable as possible when you enroll there.

Every year about this time, newspapers are filled with articles about how colleges and universities are raising tuition. You've seen plenty of headlines like this one: "College to increase tuition for next fall."

What the media rarely mentions is that most schools also simultaneously increase financial aid for students. At Roosevelt University, for example, we consider institutional support essential, and we increase it year after year. We now offer more than $8 million in support annually to our students for items such as scholarships, grants, residence hall costs and graduate assistantships.

All of this reveals just how confusing it is to determine what your real cost of going to college is these days.

Indeed, a recent survey by the American Council on Education found that the public persistently overestimates what the cost of attending college will be. Only those with children in college, or those who attend themselves, accurately state them. The confusion, or mystery, about the actual costs often prevents students and parents from seeking the best choice for their college enrollment.

So how do you know what the best value is? And how do you determine if that value leads to making the right choice in which school to attend?

To answer this question, I encourage students to take a longer view of tuition costs because the benefits of higher education are long-term. In addition to the many important intellectual reasons for earning a baccalaureate degree, there are solid economic advantages, as well.

Researchers estimate the average person with a bachelor's degree will earn $292,000 more during his or her lifetime than someone with only a high school diploma, while a student who goes on to earn a master's degree could add $479,000 more over an average high school graduate.

Moreover, this gap in career earning power between a person with a high school diploma and a person with a college degree is growing and will only continue to widen. …