New federal website lets parents compare college costs
The release today by the U.S. Department of Education of its College Affordability and Transparency lists will probably not alleviate household concerns about being able to pay for a college education. Tuitions are high and getting higher.
The lists allow families to compare college tuitions, the net cost of attending each college, and the pace at which their costs are rising. Bates College in Maine, for example, with its $51,300 price tag in 2009-2010, topped the list of most expensive private, nonprofit colleges in the country. The national average tuition cost is $21, 234.
(Bates is one of the list’s top five schools—along with Connecticut College, Middlebury College, Union College, and Colby College—whose listed tuition price does include fees, room and board. Sarah Lawrence College, the sixth school on the list, lists its tuition as $41.968, and that only includes tuition and fees)
The Main Campus of Pennsylvania State University has the highest tuition of 4-year public colleges with a $14,416 price tag. The national average is $6,397.
The lists were mandated by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which requires universities to report their tuition and their average “net price,” which also includes the amount they offer in financial aid. Under the requirements, six lists were created. Three focus on tuition and fees and the others focus on the institution’s “average net price,” which is the average price of attendance that fulltime students pay after grants and scholarships are taken into account. The lists, which publicize highest and lowest costs, are broken down into nine sectors, ranging from 4-year public schools to less than 2-year private for-profit institutions.
Across wealth levels, Education is ranked second behind Hard Work as among the primary factors in obtaining wealth. But even in wealthier households, paying for a college education is an increasing concern. Millionaire investors with a net worth between $1 million and $4.9 million (not including primary residence), for example, 30 percent say they are concerned about financing their child’s education, according to our recent study. This is up slightly from 2010, when 27 percent expressed this concern.
Among 4-year public schools, Northern New Mexico College had the highest tuition increase—51 percent--between the 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 school years. Wells College in Aurora, NY, has the highest tuition jump among 4-year private institutions—67 percent.
At the other end of the spectrum, the 4-year public and private institutions with the lowest tuitions are, respectively, Haskell Indian Nations University ($430) in Kansas and Berea College in Kentucky ($876). The Webb Institute in New York, which teaches only Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, does not charge tuition.
The institutions where prices are rising the fastest are required to report why their costs have gone up and how the institution plans to address it. This information will be posted online on College Navigatorwebsite.
The website http://www.affordablecollegesonline.org/online-colleges/ provides a great resource for searching for accredited online colleges by affordability, degree and state.