A college education is an expensive proposition. College costs have increased far faster than inflation and many students graduate to find there aren’t jobs matching their level of education and they have crushing debt.
But still the value of an education goes beyond employment prospects and a college degree definitely opens doors closed to non-graduates. But still, it’s expensive.
When I was touring colleges with my kids every campus seemed to be building a new science center, student union or some complex guaranteed make them look newer and shinier than the thousands of other institutes of higher-priced learning.
Truthfully, schools need students in their classrooms and so they offer grants, gifts and scholarships to get qualified student to enroll. A high percentage of students enrolling get some sort of grant or scholarship to go along with the student jobs and loans they’ll need.
If your child is among the best and the brightest students, they may receive a scholarship or grant regardless of the parents’ income just because his or her awesomeness casts a golden glow across the land.
Most families need a combination of financial aid, loans, grants and scholarships in addition to helping their child choose an affordable school.
The College Board has a Net Price Calculator that factors in the various expenses and funds available to students for participating schools to show the actual estimated cost of a year at college, not just tuition.
Just for fun I chose Prescott College because it is the only Arizona school using College Board’s calculator and Kenyon College in Ohio because it’s an excellent but expensive school. To be fair, I don’t know much about Prescott College other than what I read on their website yesterday, but it looks progressive and innovative.
Prescott College lists their estimated cost of attendance per year as $38, 814. Equal to the cost of a very nice new car. Kenyon lists their estimated cost of attendance as $57,910, which is like a really nice new car you’d likely have to sell to send your kid to attend Kenyon.
Both schools offer grants, scholarships and gift aid. Just for fun I entered numbers into the calculator for both schools for a family of four that earned $60,000 per year with just a few thousand in savings, a mortgage and another child following the first one to school in a couple years.
The estimated cost after grants, scholarships and aid from Prescott College came to $10, 714. Still a chunk of money to cough up every year but still, not a mind-boggling number.
The Kenyon College cost after grants, scholarships and aid came to $12,180, which surprised the heck out of me. The two schools are almost $20,000 apart expense-wise and now less than $2,000 apart. Maybe there will be money left over to buy a car?
I also entered numbers for a family of four making $125,000, ample savings, solid interest and dividend income, and lots of equity in their home. The calculator said, sorry, you’re own your own.
Clearly, colleges want kids to attend that qualify and they have money to offer to get them there. Someone has to use those new science buildings.
Oddly though the Kenyon calculation only listed $280 in personal expenses. For a kid from Arizona the costs for cold-weather clothing will be more much than that the first year. Prescott College listed $2,650 in expenses, which is more realistic.
Both only listed transportation costs as $1,000 or so, which for Prescott is reasonable, as it is only a short car ride away from the valley. For Kenyon though, there’s at least two round-trip plane tickets each year unless parents want to drive to Ohio and back, twice, or tell their new collegian they have to stay at school over winter break.
Here’s an interesting article from U.S. News The College Solution blog about Net Price Calculators. Apparently all schools needed to have them on their websites by Oct. 29, 2011 as per Congressional mandate.
Story by Daniel Friedman