College keeps getting more expensive. Between 1980 and 2020, the average price for an undergraduate degree increased by 169%, according to a recent report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. These increases make budgeting a high priority for money-conscious college applicants. Following these tips can help you choose an affordable college.
Tips to Choose An Affordable College
- Compare Schools’ Net Price vs. Sticker Price
- Compare Other College Costs and Cost of Living
- Apply for Schools with More Merit Scholarships
- Consider In-state vs. Out-of-state Schools
Compare Schools’ Net Price vs. Sticker Price
The sticker price is the number that most schools list on their websites and brochures. On the other hand, the net price is what you pay once you deduct financial aid, scholarships and grants from the sticker price.
It’s important to weigh the net price of a school when making your decision because financial aid can drastically alter your out-of-pocket expenses. For example, schools with high sticker prices often have more scholarships available to offset the cost and could end up being more affordable than a school with a comparatively low sticker price but fewer financial aid options.
Compare Other College Costs and Cost of Living
When you budget for college costs, it’s important to consider all the expenses you’ll encounter, not just tuition. Paying for housing, food, supplies, textbooks, transportation, healthcare, and more can really add up.
For example, if you plan to pay for campus housing and a meal plan, you’ll want to compare those costs alongside tuition for your top schools. Most schools will include on-campus housing estimates in their sticker price.
Off-campus housing depends on the cost of living where the school is located. Schools in large cities, which have a higher cost of living, are likely to be more expensive when it comes to housing and food.
On the other hand, public transportation could save you money when compared to driving long distances to attend class, which is typical in more rural areas.
Apply For In-state vs. Out-of-state Schools
If you plan to attend college in a different state than you currently reside, expect to pay more. Schools charge non-resident students more because they come from households that haven’t paid tax dollars to the state and thus to the school. As a result, out-of-state tuition charges bring in considerably more revenue to the school.
The average cost of in-state tuition at a public institution is $6,752. The average cost of out-of-state tuition at a public institution is $15,742. The average cost difference is $8,990.
In general, choosing an in-state school is likely to be more affordable for you and have more financial aid options. However, merit scholarships can offset the difference considerably and make out-of-state options more affordable.
Apply For Schools with More Merit Scholarships
Merit scholarships are typically awarded on the basis of academic, athletic, or artistic merit, in addition to special interests or criteria.
Merit scholarships often weigh financial needs, even when rewarding talent is their primary purpose.
How Important is College Affordability?
Sometimes, the excitement of applying for and getting accepted to college can distract from the reality that you ultimately have to pay for whatever education you receive. Parents and students alike may be tempted to take a “worry about that later” approach, which is not the best way to set yourself up for success.
College is meant to prepare you for your future outside the classroom. If it is not affordable and results in an overwhelming amount of debt that can hinder your wellness for decades after graduation. Choosing an affordable school will be the best option for your long-term financial health.