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.