There's no denying that college is expensive. The average cost (tuition and fees) of a four-year public college or university is $6,185 and $16,332 at a four-year private college or university. One year at Harvard costs more than $46,000. But higher education may be more affordable than you think.
The family's financial strength is dependent upon a combination of factors such as assets, liabilities, family size, age of parents, medical expenses, and number of children in college. Parents and students are responsible to help pay for college costs. If the costs cannot be met, then the student has the opportunity to apply for financial aid. All students should apply for financial aid even if they think they do not qualify.
- About 56 percent of students enrolled at four-year colleges attend institutions that charge tuition and fees of less than $9,000 per year.
- 43 percent of full-time students enrolled in public four-year colleges attend institutions that charge tuition and fees between $3,000 and $6,000.
- Only about 6 percent of all students attend colleges with tuition and fees totaling $33,000 or higher per year.
- About two-thirds of all full-time undergraduate students receive grant aid. In 2007-08, estimated aid in the form of grants and tax benefits averaged about $2,040 per student at public two-year colleges, about $3,600 at public four-year colleges, and about $9,300 per student at private four-year colleges.
- For full-time dependent students at public two-year colleges, net tuition and fees are no more than 2% of the family income.
- Don't rule out any school just because it seems too expensive. Many private colleges have a great deal of money to award and great flexibility in the ways they award it. As a result, you might receive a financial aid package from an expensive school that will actually make it less expensive to attend than a school with a lower cost of attendance.
- Many people will gladly finance a car, a house, furniture, a trip, or a boat, but what better investment could one find than a college education for your teen? Save as much money as you can, but don't rule out taking a loan.
The cost of attendance (COA) is the cost of one year of college.
Every school calculates its COA every year and it appears on every financial aid letter.
The COA includes:
$ tuition and student fees
$ room and board
$ books and supplies
$ personal expenses
What you can contribute + the financial aid package + the unmet need = The Annual Cost of School
The bottom line is that colleges want to invest their money in students who have the potential to achieve not only their own goals but also the school's goals as well. The price you pay depends on the financial condition of your family and how much the college wants you.
The financial aid office at the college your teen plans to attend is the best place to begin your search for free information. The financial aid administrator can tell you about student aid available from your state, the school itself, and other sources.
The school is required to inform you of its aid procedures and deadlines, and how and when you'll receive your aid award. Be sure that you've read and understood each school's satisfactory academic progress policy and keep copies of your enrollment agreement, the school's catalog, and all financial aid documents (especially loan documents) you receive.
You can also find free information about federal, state, institutional, and private student aid in your local library's reference section (usually listed under "student aid" or "financial aid").
Student aid information may also be available from foundations, religious organizations, community organizations, and civic groups, as well as organizations related to your field of interest, such as the American Medical Association or American Bar Association. You can also check with your employers or unions to see if they award scholarships or have tuition payment plans.
Questions to Ask a Financial Aid Office