College tuition costs have basically quadrupled since the mid seventies. But as “official” fees listed in university brochures and websites have skyrocketed, behind the scenes, schools have faced pressure to give price breaks. And many of them now routinely cave in to those demands. Private schools – at least those with the biggest endowments — now typically give price breaks of almost 50% off published tuition rates.
The size of the tuition discount you can get will vary dramatically depending on the type of school you are applying to and how “attractive” you are as a student. But no matter who you are or where you’re studying, it can be a big mistake to being writing tuition checks without at least asking your school for the best deal they can offer you.
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Discounts you can get on college tuition costs will depend, first, in which of the three most common types of schools you want to attend.
- An elite private school, with high admissions standards. Students typically get an average combo of price break and aid of about $25,000.
- A public school like he State University of New York, Indiana or any other state. These schools are selective about admitting students, but less so than private schools. Students now average $13,500. per year in aid at such colleges.
- A public school, community college or for-profit college. These types of schools, which accept virtually any applicant who can pay, educate far more students than state schools and private schools combined. Most of these students come from poor backgrounds and have parents who never attended college.
If you’re one of those students looking to attend a for-profit online college, be aware that such schools have been under political pressure in recent years, which has cut down on the number of applications they receive. As a result, many of them have cut their tuition and fees by several thousand dollars per year in the past few years.
Other tips to keep in mind to cut your college tuition costs:
Do not apply for early decision. Doing so means that you have to go the school if they accept you. You’re in a much better bargaining position if you get accepted to several schools, and they go to ask for a deal from the one you’re most interested in.
Fill out your FAFSA form early. Your school, your state and the federal government all have separate deadlines for when they need to receive the completed FAFSA. Missing any one of these deadlines could prevent you from getting the aid you deserve.
Apply to a good number of schools – 15 is a number many college counselors now recommend.
Don’t pay too much attention to magazine school rankings like those from U.S. News & World Report. They can actually divert you from going to a school that can best suit your needs. Also, keep in mind that employers generally pay no attention to them.
Don’t assume that a school is better just because it’s more expensive. College administrators have admitted in several cases that they have raised tuition simply to make the school seem more desirable.
Pay attention to extras. Many schools now offers special incentives like free laptops, reduced book costs or “no tuition increase” guarantees for the full length of your degree program. Do some research to find out if your school offers any of these money-saving perks.