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When Choosing A School: Which Costs Less? Private vs. Public. In-State vs. Out-of-State.


Don’t automatically dismiss a school because it’s private and, therefore, its Cost of Attendance seems incredibly out of reach.  Public colleges aren’t the only ones that can be affordable.  How can this be?  It’s all about the aid.

  • More Money:  Private schools may have more money to give away than public schools. In fact, some of the more established (and, often, more selective) institutions have very large endowments that they can draw from to fund their students’ financial aid needs.  More available funds means potentially larger packages awarded to more students.  Some schools even commit to meet the full need of their students, and they are able to do this because they have the money in their coffers.
  • Preferential Treatment for More Desirable Students:  Many schools use financial aid as a way to build and shape a class with certain types of students as well as grow the institution’s reputation by recruiting students that will enhance the image of the college.  The students who fall into the “most wanted” category by the school can expect to get more favored treatment when it comes to aid.  What does this mean for those students?
  • Need-based financial aid packages will be weighted more heavily to non-repayable grants rather than loans or work-study.
  • Merit scholarships will be awarded to those who show less need or will be added to supplement the aid packages of those who do show need.  To create these merit scholarships, the school will either use institutional funds, if they have them, or those schools that are less wealthy will discount their tuition for these coveted students and hike the tuition for others whom they are less interested in attracting to make up the difference.

If a student is at the top of the applicant pool at a given college, chances are that the student will be awarded a significant amount of aid.  On the other hand, if the student is not in this position, he or she may end up with a far less appealing package and generally less overall financial assistance from that school.
So, the lesson is simple:  If you’re concerned about the cost of college, don’t walk away from a private school just because of its price.  For the right student, it may be far less expensive than the actual sticker price.
Along these same lines, many students assume that the cost to attend an out-of-state public school may be prohibitively expensive and that only an in-state public education will be within reach.  While it’s true that public schools do favor in-state students with a lower tuition, many public universities’ out-of-state tuition costs can still be quite low.  In fact, depending upon which state you live in, some out-of-state public schools’ tuition costs may actually be lower than your in-state university system’s tuition!
The point is, don’t jump to fast conclusions about private vs. public or in-state vs. out-of state educational costs.   Do your research and understand what your opportunities and costs might be at each school in which you are interested.
Andrea Aronson
College Admissions Consultant
Westfield, NJ


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