Why Some Top Colleges Can Be More Affordable Than You Think

March 3, 2020
Posted in Student Tips
March 3, 2020 ACS

Now that it’s time to narrow your college choices and make a final selection, finances will weigh heavily upon your decision. It can be tempting to simply take a look at the cost of tuition, and choose the school with the lowest advertised expenses. But before you do that, take note of the fact that some of the more expensive schools – yes, even the “top” colleges – can often be more affordable than you believe. In fact, in some cases the more “expensive” school ends up being the cheapest!

How is this possible? The difference lies in the aid packages offered by each school. Whereas federal financial aid will be applied regardless of your school’s tuition price, each university might offer its own aid package in the form of merit-based or need-based scholarships, grants, and work study programs.

For example, let’s assume that you’ve been admitted to a public university that costs $26,000 per year (a hypothetical situation only). Now let’s also assume that you’ve been accepted to a “pricey” private school with an annual total tuition cost of $63,000. That sticker shock might leave you reeling, and you assume that the public university is your only option.

But wait! Your federal financial aid package, which is based upon the income reported on your FAFSA, will be the same at either school. However, the private school might offer you additional aid, based upon your family’s income, that might bring your total out-of-pocket cost down below that of the public university.

That is not always the case, but it is a common situation.

Many pricey private schools, assuming you are admitted, actually require no family contribution for those whose family income is under a certain level. Or, they might offer a work study position that allows you to earn the balance of your tuition.

The takeaway lesson here is that you shouldn’t make an assumption of a school’s affordability based solely upon the sticker price. If you truly want to attend a school, follow through with your application for financial aid. Wait to see what each school can offer before making your final decision.


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