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Why Does College Cost So Much? The President of Sarah Lawrence Explains

Sarah Lawrence College is consistently ranked among the most expensive colleges in the United States–at least in terms of its sticker price. As I have written elsewhere, colleges will discount tuition for the students they most desire.

sarah lawrence collegeIn a recent piece in the Huffington Post, the President of Sarah Lawrence College, Karen Lawrence (no relation to Sarah, as far as I know) gives a coherent explanation of the price of SLC’s tuition.

Mostly, the costs at SLC are higher because it is a gloriously inefficient educational institution, preferring to focus on the education of undergraduates in an intimate, one-on-one sort of environment.  Lawrence also points out that geography is partly to blame:  costs in Westchester County, New York, are a lot higher than they might be in Kalamazoo, Michigan, or Elon, North Carolina.

Tuition and fees at SLC were just shy of $42,000 this past academic year, and the total cost of attendance  (tuition, room, board, books, travel, expenses) was calculated to be about $56,700.  Admittedly, a shocking sticker price.  However, government statistics show that after discounting for need-based aid and merit-based aid, the average net price of SLC in the same year was actually about $31,000.  That’s $25,700 off the sticker price.  Holy cow!

It’s interesting that Karen Lawrence didn’t refer to these “discounts” in her HuffPost article.  She also didn’t explain that SLC offers  merit scholarships for exceptional students.  Characteristcally, SLC gives out very little information to prospective students about how these are awarded, preferring to hold their cards closely and not say too loudly that if you’re a really good student, the college is more likely to offer you a scholarship than if you are a so-so student. But that’s generally how it works.

Still, I thought the defense of a liberal arts education–and SLC’s particular brand of the liberal arts–was pretty darned good.  You might want to read it for yourself–just before you write that tuition check….

Mark Montgomery
Educational Consultant

 

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