‘Location, location, location’ isn’t just the mantra of realtors. It also heavily influences how schools can price themselves.
Only 14 percent of students end up attending college more than 500 miles from their homes, but popular choices for those who do travel tend to be brand name schools that are located in cities on the coasts including Boston, New York, Washington, D.C, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Many of the schools located in these urban areas, including Boston College, don’t have to price themselves competitively because teenagers are eager to attend them at any cost.
Beyond the urban, coastal schools that attract students from across the country, many colleges crave students from different time zones. These schools love to be able to brag that they have students from all 50 states or from as many states as they can attract.
Schools love geographically diverse student bodies because there is something special about having a campus that includes students from places as varied as Spearfish, S.D. (the hometown of my son’s roommate at Beloit College in Wisconsin), Baltimore and Midland, Texas. Students who are willing to look at schools between the coasts don’t always have to be as accomplished academically when they can play the geography card.
Premiere flagship universities, such as the University of Virginia, University of Michigan and University of California, Berkeley, have priced themselves beyond the financial ability of most non-residents.
The eight University of California campuses are now the most expensive public universities for outsiders in the nation. UCLA, for example, will cost a non-resident $54,434. Following right behind the UC campuses are the University of Michigan ($50,352), University of Virginia ($48,980) and University of Colorado ($48,414).
Students aiming for these prestigious schools should expect to pay a steep price with little or no chance for a merit scholarship. On the other hand, state universities that aren’t as high in the college rankings such as the University of Pittsburg, which is overshadowed by Penn State, are more likely to award merit scholarships.
It’s not uncommon for freshmen to receive the best financial aid or merit awards. Schools are eager to lure freshmen with attractive financial aid packages, and they are less concerned about losing these students later.
When families are researching schools, they should check not only the average level of financial support for freshmen, but for other undergrads as well.
Parents can compare the financial aid packages and merit scholarships for freshmen versus all undergraduates at COLLEGEdata.com. To research any school, type in its name and then click the Money Matters link.
Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, for example, met 72 percent of the typical freshman’s financial need. But among all undergraduates, Loyola Marymount’s support drops to mere 66%.
Families should absolutely use the net price calculator for each school before letting their children apply.
The net price calculator, which you can find on any school’s website, will provide the parents with a personalized estimate of what that school will cost that family. Tell your clients to use these calculators long before their children are applying. If the net prices are way beyond your clients’ budgets, they should keep searching for schools that will be more affordable.
No school is worth going into huge debt, and it would be wrong to assume that the academics would be superior at a more expensive college. Here are five easy tips to keep the costs of college down.
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