Some Colleges Cost $95K This Year

Wealthy families face a hefty bill, though lower-income students are getting bigger breaks
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 7, 2024 4:50 PM CDT
More Colleges Crack the $90K Threshold
A passerby walks through a gate to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.   (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

As more than 2 million graduating high school students from across the United States finalize their decisions on what college to attend this fall, many are facing jaw-dropping costs—in some cases, as much as $95,000. A number of private colleges—some considered elite and others middle-of-the-pack—have exceeded the $90,000 threshold for the first time this year as they set their annual costs for tuition, board, meals, and other expenses, per the AP.

  • Six-figure outlay: That means a wealthy family with three children could expect to shell out more than $1 million by the time their youngest child completes a four-year degree.
  • But: The sticker price tells only part of the story. Many colleges with large endowments are focusing on making college affordable for students who aren't wealthy. Lower-income families may be required to pay just 10% of the advertised rate and, for some, attending a selective private college can turn out to be cheaper than a state institution. "Ninety thousand dollars clearly is a lot of money, and it catches people's attention, for sure," says economics professor Phillip Levine of Wellesley College near Boston. "But for most people, that is not how much they're going to pay. The existence of a very generous financial aid system lowers that cost substantially."

  • Examples: Wellesley's estimated cost will exceed $90,000 for the first time this fall, at $92,000. But the institution points out that nearly 60% of its students will receive financial aid, and the average amount of that aid is more than $62,000. Some of the other colleges with sticker prices of more than $90,000 this year include USC at $95,000, Harvey Mudd College in California at $93,000, the University of Pennsylvania at $92,000, Brown University in Rhode Island at $92,000, Dartmouth College in New Hampshire at $91,000, and Boston University at $90,000.
  • Harvard: Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, puts its cost of attendance this fall at up to $91,000, but it makes the point that the average parent contribution is just $13,000, and almost a quarter of families pay nothing at all. Harvard can afford a particularly generous student aid program because it has an endowment worth more than $50 billion, the largest of any university.
  • Overall: In its most recent analysis, the College Board estimated the average advertised cost for private nonprofit colleges last year was $60,000, compared to about $29,000 for students at public in-state institutions and $47,000 at public out-of-state institutions.
  • New snag: Many prospective students this year are facing delays and anxiety in finding out how much aid they'll be offered by colleges due to problems with the rollout of a new Department of Education online form that was supposed to make applying for federal aid easier. Many colleges rely on information from the form for determining their own aid offers to students. "The rollout has been pure chaos and an absolute disaster," said Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert.
(More colleges and universities stories.)

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