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Don't Decide College On The Price

Mar 25, 2008
Tuition discounts. You have probably heard this term before, but you may not know what they are or what they mean for you. Tuition discounts are the reason that less than one in five college students actually pay the full published tuition price of private and public colleges. Little confused? Don't Worry!

Upon receiving your acceptance letter into any college, they begin to assess your financial needs. Each college or university that accepts you uses a similar formula when determining your financial need and your expected family contribution (EFC, the amount a school expects you to kick in). This means your EFC is basically the same whether a school costs $5,000 or $45,000 or if it's a public, private, or ivy-league institution.

Each financial aid package that is presented to you usually represents the same thing. The difference between that institution's cost of attendance (COA) and your EFC. That aid package may be a mix of federal grants and loans, need-based scholarships, federal Work-Study jobs and, "institutional aid" from the school. You may not even know you are eligible for some of these offerings, but when you are offered them you should seriously consider their use.

Whether it is called institutional aid, an entrance award, or something else, the school is offering you a tuition discount on your college bill. By colleges charging full price to students who can easily afford to pay, colleges can offer discounted fares to lower- to middle-income students who cannot. This way, the school maintains quota of students and money it is taking in, but also allowing it to help students it sees as valuable assets in the future.

Colleges will often not advertise tuition discounts. Simply receiving a letter in the mail that lists some of the discounts available to you, does not mean you automatically receive them. You will need to call them and notify them you are interested and they may have you fill out some paperwork to take the process to the next level.

The true differences between aid packages aren't always obvious. Before deciding which college is the best for you, evaluate each aid package carefully, check the fine print, and then crunch the numbers for a true comparison. You can compare up to three award letters at a time side by side using some programs online such as Nellie Mae's award letter calculator.

The truth is that you can get a fine education no matter your family's budget. A mere 5% of students attend colleges with annual tuition and fees of $33,000 or higher and a large majority of those students consequently receive some sort of aid in the paying the tuition. Roughly 65% of enrolled students in all four-year schools are charged less than $9,000 per year in tuition and fees, according to a 2007 College Board report, and many are charged even less.

Simply browsing publications from the university, or doing a quick search of expected tuition and various universities is not enough to fully grasp the information at hand. Call and ask about financial assistance, they want you to go their school and many will help you do so. Don't let a high tuition keep you from picking a great university.
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