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Choosing Your College: The Price Factor

Asking the right questions now can make your college choice a better one.

If you haven’t done a personal interest inventory, start now. Once you have an idea of your interests and the type of major you might enjoy, you can narrow your search for colleges. It’s OK if you change your major while in college—many students do—but understanding your interests and possible career choices will give you a foundation for choosing the right school.

Q:  How much does your “dream” school really cost after financial aid, scholarships and grants?

A:  Every school has to have a net price calculator on its website that allows you to get a more accurate estimate of what that school might cost your family. Start with that tool, not with the “sticker price,” which applies to almost no one. It’s rarely, if ever, the price you’ll pay to attend a college.

Once you’re accepted, you’ll get an award letter that details how much your family will actually need to pay, and what kind of financial aid package you'll receive—including federal, state, and school sources.

After institutional aid, some private colleges are less expensive than public colleges. Be sure to investigate the actual cost of attending each school you consider after all financial aid is calculated. 

Q:  Are there more opportunities to reduce costs?

A:  Yes, consider all of your options as you plan for your college experience. College is a huge investment for your future.

College graduates continue to average higher incomes than people with high school diplomas – 84% more according to the US census bureau.

Here are some different ways to streamline your college expenses:

  • Choosing your meal plan – Make sure to investigate all of the meal plans options. Find the plan that matches the needs of the student.

  • Books – Purchase used books or rent them. Renting is especially a great idea for non-major classes.

  • Where to live – The experience of living on-campus has a great value. However, living in off-campus housing with roommates or living at home could save you up to $8,000- $10,000 a year*. Also, are you planning on going to a school several states away from home? Travel expenses between college and home for holidays and summers can add up.

  • In-state or out-of-state – Balance in-state tuition versus an out-of-state experience.

Research which schools have reciprocity with where you live.

What is the right college for you?

  •  4-year degree is needed for graduate school and many professional careers.
  •  2-year associate degree is needed for various trades and it has a lower cost and takes less time to complete than a 4-year school.
  • Community colleges are an excellent option for some students. If you are not sure what you are going to study, need some pre-college, pre-requisite course work, or if financially, this is the option that is feasible for the family, a community college may be the right choice. Community colleges offer 2 plus 2 programs. This means the student receives an associate degree from the community college and enters a 4-year school as a junior. The student must work with counselors at both institutions to ensure they stay on track.

There are employers in certain trades who will pay all or some of your tuition at a technical or vocational college — and train you on the job you while you’re still in school.


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