Are Private Colleges Worth the Cost?

By Deborah Nayrocker

Dear Deborah: Our daughter is starting college next year. We have visited private and public universities. Her top two college choices are at private schools. She is a good student, and we know she is looking forward to attending college. We’re thinking about telling her that she’ll need to attend a public university, since it will be more affordable for us. Is this a good idea? – A Reader

Answer: Choosing a college or university should be about looking at all the options available to you. Don’t allow the total cost figures of private schools to scare you into thinking that public universities are the only options.

Private schools offer thousands of dollars in financial aid, making the total cost more affordable for students. Merit-based aid focuses on the student’s leadership, academic, music, and athletic abilities. These scholarships often cut 25-50% of tuition costs. Find out what the schools offer in scholarships and grants.

Need-based aid takes into account the financial needs of the family (number in the household, income, savings, etc.). For students to receive aid, parents and students need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) document. This is available online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. The college cost minus expected family contribution (EFC) equals financial need.

Federal aid is available in the form of grants, loans, and work-study programs. To receive federal financial aid, a student must: 1) be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen with a valid Social Security number; 2) have earned a high school diploma or equivalent; 3) be enrolled in an eligible program; 4) if male, be registered for Selective Service.

Once the financial aid packages are awarded for your daughter’s schools of interest, the decision-making process may be easier for your family.

Besides looking at the costs, carefully evaluate the college environment and how it will impact your daughter. Many people meet lifetime friends and/or spouses during their years at college. This is an important decision-making time for your daughter and your family.

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Deborah Nayrocker is an author and columnist. She is the award-winning author of The Art of Debt-Free Living and Living a Balanced Financial Life.

Copyright by Deborah J. Nayrocker. All rights reserved.