Private college could cost $6,000 or $69,000, depending on your wealth

Using an online calculator to estimate the total annual cost of college for families with various incomes and net worth, New York Times columnist David Leonhardt concludes that many people would be surprised by the affordability of elite, private colleges for lower-income and middle-income students.

Although many private colleges have a $70,000 sticker price, a huge gap exists between actual cost for different income brackets. To quantify that gap, the Times created six “representative families” whose income and net worth ranged from “poor” to “very affluent,” entering each family’s information into the MyinTuition calculator, which provides cost estimates to families on behalf of 32 colleges.

The analysis revealed that a typical lower-income student (from a family earning $50,000 or less annually) applying to the average private school represented in the calculator would face an annual bill of $6,000. A student from a middle-class family would typically pay $10,000 to $30,000 out of pocket, while an affluent student (from a family earning $175,000 a year with a net worth of $500,000 or more) could be charged $70,000 a year to attend. The author notes that these figures are merely estimates and don’t account for “the nuances of a family’s financial situation.”

In finding that “top colleges are more affordable than many people realize”—for both poor and middle-class students—Leonhardt warns students against “assum[ing] that any college too expensive for you to attend.” The column notes that high-sticker-price schools tend to offer more financial aid, have higher graduation rates, and produce graduates with lower debt burdens than other schools. In contrast, for-profit colleges and public colleges with lower list prices have much lower graduation rates and often leave students with greater amounts of debt.

Georgetown University admits and enrolls students without regard to their financial circumstances and is committed to meeting students’ full demonstrated financial need. For more information on Georgetown’s approach as one of the nation’s few need-blind, meet-full-need institutions, visit Georgetown’s financial aid website.

New York Times
Topics in this story
, , ,

Next Up

A push for more effective, equitable transfer pathways

Improving the transfer process from community colleges to four-year institutions is crucial as higher education seeks to build more diverse campuses and foster more equitable outcomes for underrepresented students, experts say.