The Shrinking Cost of College

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Most families do not pay the sticker price for college.  In fact, most parents pay far below the published tuition.

About two out of three full-time college students receive grants, otherwise known as scholarships, to attend school. If you just look at private institutions, the number who receive college scholarships is a whopping 80%.

I obtained those figures by reading a New York Times’ Q&A with Sandy Baum, a professor emeritus at Skidmore College and a senior policy analyst at the College Board. It’s hard to image anyone more knowledgeable about college costs than Baum, an economist, who has immersed herself in college funding issues for many years.

While the published figures on college tuition are daunting, what families should be focusing on is what their college cost will be after they subtract grant money or scholarships that typically come from the schools themselves. When you subtract this cash, what you’ve got left is the net tuition price.

This net tuition price, according to Baum, has been steadily shrinking for at least 15 years. It’s declined so much that the average cost of college is dramatically less than the sticker price.

Here are some examples:
Type of institution                Published Tuition    Average Net Price
Community college……………$2,544                           $0
State university ………………..$7,020                           $1,600
Private colleges ………………..$26,273                        $11,900

You can learn more about college costs by reading The New York Time’s interview.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for

Read more:

Naming Names: A List of the Most Generous Colleges

A Primer on College Scholarships

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