Why Private Colleges Might Not Cost As Much As You Think

May 22, 2009 

According to Nancy Oliver Gray, president of Hollins University, a women’s liberal arts college in Roanoke, Virginia, private college might actually turn out to be a bargain. How so? Here are some of her reasons:

1. Private colleges offer significant need-based financial aid and merit scholarships.

2. Financial aid packages are typically much more generous than those at public colleges.

3. Students at private colleges are more likely to graduate in four years, thereby saving money by not having to attend beyond fours years. Since private colleges tend to be smaller than “the publics,” students will generally experience smaller class sizes and more individual attention from professors. In addition, students tend to have an easier time getting into the classes they need to graduate than in public colleges.

Other advice on affording college from Ms. Gray includes:

  • Few families pay “sticker price” for college, so don’t panic when you find out what a college is asking for tuition. In fact, according to the College Board, average net tuition (after financial aid is factored in) is more than $10,000 below the listed tuition price.
  • Complete your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as soon as possible. Students who get the FAFSA form in earlier are more likely to get a sizable aid award.
  • Keep in touch with the college’s financial aid office. Often a college’s aid officers may be able to help you find money from both the college itself as well as from other sources. You can arrange a private meeting with an aid officer for more individualized help.

So, when considering which college is the best match, don’t rule out private colleges because of their “sticker price.” Remember to take the entire financial picture into account before making your college choice. Happy college hunting!


“You Can Afford College, Even In Tough Economic Times” December 14, 2008 (The Charlotte Observer), December 18, 2008 (The Virginian-Pilot, The Roanoke Times)


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