Don’t let the list price of tuition scare you away from considering a private college education—it may actually end up costing less than a state school. 64% of students at a private college graduate in 4 years vs. 37% at public universities, saving a lot of time and money.
You wouldn’t buy a house or car based solely on list price. You’d look at quality and the fit, right? Likewise, smart families aren’t intimidated by list price. When you determine what represents quality in a college education, there are numerous factors vital to consider beside cost. And, when you do look at cost, be aware that the list price numbers don’t always paint a realistic picture. Two reasons:
The 6-year graduation rate for public institutions is comparable to the 4-year graduation rate at private institutions.
That’s right—private colleges and universities are graduating the same percentage of students in 4 years that state schools do in 6. A 2017 study by the Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI) showed that the state’s 31 private colleges were enrolling 15% of the state’s incoming freshmen—but issuing 29% of all bachelor’s degrees.
|4-Year Graduation Rates of Several Tuition
Rewards Member Colleges
|St. Lawrence University (NY)||82.1%|
|Worcester Polytechnic Institute (MA)||81.9%|
|Ursinus College (PA)||74.6%|
|Hillsdale College (MI)||78.7%|
|Rollins College (FL)||68.7%|
|DePauw University (IN)||75.7%|
|Beloit College (WI)||72.0%|
|University of San Diego (CA)||68.3%|
|4-Year Graduation Rates of Several
|Arizona State University||45.3|
|Eastern Michigan University||14.1%|
|Kent State University (OH)||34.1%|
|Pennsylvania State University||66.7%|
|Texas Tech University||34.9%|
|University of Kansas||42.1%|
|University of Tennessee||45.5%|
|University of Wisconsin (Madison)||60.3%|
Dr. James Johnston, founder of SAGE Scholars and former Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at The Wharton Graduate School of the University of Pennsylvania, believes that one effect of continued low wage growth is a negative impact on graduation rates at public colleges. State schools become more crowded, making it even more difficult to graduate in 4 years.
Public colleges can be wonderful for certain undergraduate students—self-disciplined, self-motivated self-starters able to handle peer pressure and thrive in large lecture-hall environments. Why are there significant cost differences between public and private institutions? Certainly, financial support from state legislatures is the largest factor. But also, the economies of scale tend to be very different for public and private institutions. Families need to consider how these might affect the educational and social experience of college:
“The undergraduate experience that students encounter at small, residential liberal arts colleges is more effective in producing meaningful and lasting benefits than the education experienced at large, public universities.”
Investigate these factors:
Graduation rates can also be affected by:
Because of their smaller size and greater resources, private colleges tend to provide the following advantages:
Families need to consider life after graduation. Do the college’s graduates gain either well-paying jobs directly after graduation, or admission to graduate schools? Nationally, 33% of the alumni of private colleges go on to earn graduate degrees vs. 28% of state university alumni.
Families often wonder how your choice of college affects your life. Hardwick Day, a higher- education consulting firm, surveyed more than 10,000 alumni from 800 different colleges to examine the relationship between college experiences and career and life outcomes. Among many findings:
While the benefits of having a mentor hold true across all sectors of higher education, Hardwick Day found that private college graduates nearly always recalled one or more mentors from their undergraduate years—most often a professor but sometimes others in the campus community.
Public university graduates were less likely to experience mentoring. Even among the graduates of the nation’s 50 top-ranked public universities, more than half of the alumni reported they had no mentor or role model during their college years. Focusing on perceptions of differences in career preparation, skill development, personal values, and community involvement by these 10,000+ alumni, Hardwick Day concluded, “The undergraduate experience that students encounter at small, residential liberal arts colleges is more effective in producing meaningful and lasting benefits than the education experienced at large, public universities.”
|List-price tuition (before scholarships or discounts)||$9,970||$34,740|
|Room & Board||$10,800||$12,210|
|Books & miscellany||$1,250||$1,220|
|Times 5 years||$126,450|
|Times 4 years||$203,600|
|Plus ‘Opportunity Cost’||$50,000 *|
|Tuition Rewards Scholarship||$0.00||$-30,000|
|Total Cost After Tuition Rewards||$176,450||$173,600|