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Home » Colleges, Financial Aid News

The Skyrocketing Cost of Private School Tuition

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Did you know that the average family in America earns $50,000 per year?  And did you know that spending one year at many of America’s elite private colleges and universities will cost more than that?

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, there are 58 private colleges charging at least $50K for tuition, fees, room and board — up from “just” five colleges charging that much last year. Top of the list is the all-female Sarah Lawrence College, at $55,788/year.

To put that price tag in perspective, I liked this quote from the article:

Before the 1980s … people at private colleges had a rule of thumb: A year of private education should cost about the same as a new Chevrolet.

“You don’t have to pay $50,000 for a new Chevy these days,” Mr. Breneman says. “So somewhere in there we went off onto a different path.”

(In fact, I just did some Googling and it looks like a new Chevy Impala will cost you around $25k.)

Obviously the two-Chevy-cost is pricing a number of families out of private education. So what about public universities? Turns out they are raising their tuition rates even faster. The average in-state, four-year college degree now costs just under $16k/year, an increase of 5.9% over last year. Private schools, on average, raised their rates “just” 4.3%.

Also, bear in mind that many students at private schools receive grants and scholarships — an average of $13K/year at the 36 most expensive private schools in America, which knocks the average price tag down to $36,000/year (still more than twice the cost of an in-state college). In fact, one private college administrator said that of this year’s incoming freshmen class, two-thirds received financial aid, with an average grant of $30,000.

The Chronicle also interviewed a number of higher ed administrators, who weighed in on whether or not the ceiling has been reached — and what the high costs of private education mean to today’s students. While that $50K is obviously a benchmark of sorts, I’m thinking that for families earning the average yearly income — or even twice that — $50,000 is no less affordable than $45,000 or even $40,000. What do you think? How do these rising private school costs impact your decisions about college?

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