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Private Colleges May Cost Less Than You Think

A recent op-ed piece in the Providence Journal by Donald V. DeRosa, the president of the University of the Pacific, makes the case that even in tough financial times, students and their parents should not overlook the possibility of a private college.

His case is built on the following pillars:

1.  Private colleges, with their endowments and peculiar pricing structures, are often able to discount tuition for meritorious students by 50% or more.

2.  Nationwide, private universities offer 86% of their students some sort of financial aid.

3.  When financial aid is factored in, students at private and public colleges pay similar amounts for their education.

4.  Many private colleges–especially the wealthiest–are doing a lot to make themselves accessible to lower income families replacing loans with grants and boosting financial aid for particular populations or income groups.

5.  Cost comparisons do not tell the whole story, as most private colleges offer a qualitatively different educational experience, often with smaller student bodies, smaller class sizes, more personalized attention from faculty, and a greater focus on undergraduate teaching.

6.  No matter what the current economic situation, education is an important investment in one’s future, and one should not overlook opportunities without gathering the right information and asking the right questions.

As I have said on many occasions, the economic downturn does not call for pulling back and retreating to our shells.  Tough times require better due diligence and more informed choices.  If we draw facile conclusions based on fear or ignorance, we may lose out on enormous opportunity–opportunity that has not disappeared just because the economy is in recession.

Mark Montgomery
College Consultant

Reader Interactions


  1. I am looking for possible online courses
    which would transfer/dove-tail into the
    deaconness program of Concordia Seminary
    of St. Louis, MO. The DEACONNESS is “a woman called and commissioned by the (Lutheran)church to meet the need to
    share the Gospel of Jesus Christ through
    a ministry of service and compassion;
    spiritual care and teaching the Christian faith.” My advisor at Concordia tells me all courses are taken
    –no online, but it is going to be dif-
    ficult for mme to move to St. Louis at
    this time to begin studies in Sep, ’09.

    To put things into perspective, I’m 70,
    widowed and am living with my 91 yr. old mother and helping her in any way I can. Her health is good but she has slowed. Should the Lord will that I take
    courses in the program, she would move
    to campus with me.

    As I said, I’m concerned about online
    courses and also financing. My age will
    probably work against me when it comes to paying back loans; my husband was
    military retired and when he passed, his
    benefits were no more (except for the
    health insurance). Any avenues which I
    can check out? Thank you kindly and may
    your Christmas and 2009 be blessed in
    every way by our Lord and Savior! Janet

  2. Hello, Janet. Thanks for visiting my blog.

    The only folks who can really answer your question definitively are the folks at Concordia. I’m not completely clear from your question whether Concordia will even accept any online courses for their degree program. It seems that they will not. This is not totally unusual: even religious colleges and seminaries must pay the bills, and college sometimes require that at least the lion’s share of courses counted toward their degree be taken–and tuition paid–at that college.

    So you must start with the transfer policies of Concordia. What will they let you do? My understanding is that they will not accept outside credits.

    If this is the case, and you cannot move to St. Louis, you need a “Plan B.” But before I could counsel you on that plan, I’d need to ask you more about your purposes in entering the seminary. Are you preparing for a particular profession or other opportunity for which this sort of degree is required? Or are you pursuing this because of your faith and interest in Gospel? Depending on your answers to these questions (and others), I could suggest that you seek online opportunities irrespective of Concordia. Or you might find other ways to minister to others closer to your home, without paying for further education.

    And if financing is an option, you really must think about your return on investment–or you must discount it entirely and realize that you are doing this for reasons that have no rational grounding in economics. You may find that the investment in your self and your faith is worth any expense. Or you may determine that you can nurture your faith in other ways, without the loans and without the move to St. Louis.

    I don’t know if my response has been helpful, but I do wish you all the best as you struggle with a difficult decision.

    Thanks again for your visit!

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