Why Private College & Universities?

By SAGE Scholars
June 18, 2022

Why Private College & Universities?

If you’re new to the SAGE Scholars Tuition Rewards program, you may notice that our consortium of over 440 member institutions only includes private colleges. Like many families, you may be wondering, why does SAGE Scholars champion only private college education? Traditionally, private college may seem out of reach for American families looking to maximize their investment in their child’s education.

Since 1995, SAGE Scholars has bridged the gap between students who want a quality private college education but are unsure how they may afford it. We achieve this goal through our consortium of over 440 private colleges and counting. These member colleges work closely with SAGE Scholars families to ensure affordability—all at no cost to the student, family, and college. At SAGE Scholars, we know that the idea that a private college is out of reach to families because of cost emerges from misinformation. So, we’re here to help! As a mission-driven organization, SAGE Scholars aims to fill this gap by making space for a conversation that challenges the myth that private college is inaccessible, and for a good reason—there’s far more to college funding!

Many students, believing the myth that public education is more affordable than private education, limit their college search to only public colleges and universities. While this may be the best choice for some, many students and parents make this choice without understanding the full scope of college affordability; thus, the real cost of their public college decision.

So, that’s where we come in! For those who remain skeptical, key pieces information inform SAGE Scholars’ values. To understand how private tuition can become more affordable than a public tuition, it’s important to know the differences between sticker price and the net price. When paying for college, the sticker price makes up the number you see for tuition. That number has three components through which students can receive aid to reduce tuition costs: grants and scholarships, federal loans, and out-of-pocket costs. Each component includes the following:

  • Grants and Scholarships: merit scholarships, need-based aid, and PELL grants
  • Federal Loans: Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, and Parent PLUS
  • Out of Pocket: Outside scholarships, cash payments, and private loans

In this equation, grants and scholarships make up the bulk of college funding— accounting for a little under half of the total sticker price of college tuition. While private and public schools provide federal financial aid to students, private colleges collect funding through their endowment, alumni donations, and tuition. This revenue structure means that private colleges often have more money available to award grants and scholarships. During the 2020-2021 school year, private institutions extended a record average 48% tuition discount to undergraduates—nearly ten times what public institutions offered. Tuition discounts, also known as merit aid, refer to any gift aid that the college offers to reduce your tuition cost, which falls under the grants and scholarships section of the total sticker price.

COVID-19 continues to change the climate of higher education. Because private colleges rely on student enrollment to fund and expand the institution, these colleges and universities are more likely, receptive, and, because of their funding model, able to readily provide prospective students with significant tuition discounts. Private institutions are also, due to the reliance on alumni donations to fund the institution, keen to retain students and keep satisfaction high.

While the overall sticker price of these colleges may initially be more expensive than public intuitions, financial aid packages and tuition discounts can and do make the overall sticker price of a private education more affordable than a public education. SAGE Scholars continues to lead the way—connecting prospective students and their families with private colleges eager to enroll students and provide them with merit aid that significantly increases the affordability of a college education.

SAGE Scholars

At SAGE Scholars, we deeply believe in the value and quality of private higher education. Our mission is to provide access to affordable college opportunities while bringing together families, colleges & universities, and benefit providers to create college funding solutions. Since 1995, SAGE Scholars has bridged the gap between students who want a quality private college education and colleges that will work closely with member families to ensure affordability — all at no cost to the student, family, or college. As the nation’s oldest, largest, and most trusted private college preparation and funding organization, we’re providing families with the guidance and resources they need for every step of the college process.
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