The cost of college is a serious issue in the United States. Remember though, that the US has the best colleges in the world, and like anything else, there is a price to pay for that. Nevertheless, the true cost of college is misleading. Top colleges are cheaper than you think, says the New York Times, which compiled data from an online calculator.
The key finding is that top colleges are more affordable than many people realize – both for poor and for middle-class students.
Low-Income, Middle Class, and The Affluent
How much do lower-income students pay? Lower-income students – defined as families with $50,000 or less in annual income – pay only $6,000. Students can often cover that cost through part-time work and a small annual loan.
Middle-class families pay a higher price, but nowhere near the list price. Only affluent families pay close to the list price. New York Times defines affluent families with an annual income of at least $175,000 and a net worth of a half-million dollars or more. College bill at many private colleges, including tuition, fees, room and board, has reached the sum of $70,000 a year. For affluent families this can be unpleasant, but not enough to disrupt their lives, which is what colleges look at.
The findings are summarized in the figure below.
High vs Low Prices
The New York Times argues that colleges with huge list prices aren’t the biggest problem because they often offer substantial financial aid and have high graduation rates. Low-income students at least graduate with manageable amounts of debt and get good jobs.
The real problem is with lower list prices -- private and public colleges -- because of lower graduation rates. So students emerge with debt and no degree, which is a terrible combination. You can find more info here.
Costs at colleges are not identical. Not surprisingly, colleges that charge more tend to have smaller endowments, giving that they have fewer resources to pay for financial aid. Some of the least expensive selective colleges for poor and middle-class students often have the largest endowments. Amherst, Dartmouth and Williams are all examples. Yale stands out for providing the most financial aid to middle-class students, charging them only slightly more than poor students. Harvard, Princeton and Stanford have similar policies.
For both poor and middle-class students, such colleges tend to be significantly cheaper than even four-year public universities! So don't assume that private colleges are more expensive than the public ones. Often they are not. Do your research and find out.
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