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Are private colleges worth the cost?

This is part of our professionals series where we ask professionals what they think students should know

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Michel’s Answer

I know its a cop out but I will echo the it depends. I was offered admittance into medical school at my state school for full price. I asked if they had any scholarships or any financial aid I would qualify for. They straight off the bat became offended and told me I was lucky to get into a medical school and that is the cost it takes them and that I should be grateful. I also was admitted to an Ivy league much better school literally all around. They ended up giving me 2/3 of my tuition off because my parents never made a ton ton of money. After all of that I pay half of what I would for my state school so in my case it is extremely worth it. Private schools have a lot of benefits to them some of them being the class sizes. In my undergrad it wasn’t uncommon to have 250 students in a room and the professor didn’t have a ton of time to discuss problems with us after class. Private schools have it slightly better and you get more of that one on one time which is accounted for in tuition by being more expensive. I think creating a pros and cons list can be beneficial depending on what you want to do with a degree can help you make an informed decision. If you are trying to do graduate school or want to go into very competitive degrees the private school is going to give you a nice advantage. If you are wanting to get a four year degree work a little cushy job that is lower stress the public school will most likely be fine. Explore both campuses and see what you like. Hopefully this is helpful.
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Laurie’s Answer

In addition to what Mack, said, you definitely need to look at the financial consequences of paying the higher costs of private colleges. If you will have to take out student loans, you need to weigh the pros and cons of how that will impact you in your future. Make sure you understand exactly what your payment on the loans will be, how long you will be paying the loans, and what the interest rates will be. Some students get themselves into a situation where they are paying loans well into their 40s and 50s, and often cannot afford to buy a house. In many cases, a degree is a degree and you can pursue your same career dreams no matter where your degree comes from.
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Fernando’s Answer

It really depends on what you're looking to study. If the student is indecisive and is still trying to figure out what they want in terms of career it's best to not jump into private college. Then there's budget, given that many private colleges are too expensive for what they offer. When selecting a private college it's best to not only be sure of what you're looking to study, but also research the pricing for said college.
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Brianna’s Answer

In my very specific experience, private schools CAN be affordable and "worth it" if you get financial aid. I attended a private liberal arts college for my Bachelors and a public university for my masters degree, and I actually wound up paying more for the masters degree than my four years at a private school.

When looking at private colleges, do your research to see what kinds of financial aid are offered. Us News is a good place to begin researching, as it breaks down what % of students in the latest class received financial aid, what percentage that aid covered, and what type of aid it was (scholarships, grants, loans, work study, etc). If you do your research and see that a large percentage of students are taking out loans or are not having their tuition covered, I'd say avoid that option. If you see a large percentage of students who have their tuition covered in scholarships, look more into the school as an option.

Try to see if the private college offers full need-based aid. Especially if you come from a lower income household and/or are a first generation college student, many private schools have a percentage of their endowment dedicated to this and offer full rides with merit and need-based scholarships. The caveat here is, you need to have a very strong application (including GPA, recommendation letters, standardized tests if they are required, personal essay, and work/extracurrivular background) to be in the running for these scholarships.
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Gabriel’s Answer

My esteemed colleagues have given great advice. One thing I would suggest that you be on the look-out for...is a a private for-profit? Or a private not-for-profit? Private just means not "run" by the state or local government. Harvard and Northwestern are private universities...do those names seem dodgy?

I have worked in financial aid for twenty years. I don't think anyone wants to incur debt from student loans, but it is something that can help. Is it ideal? No! But if you are dealing with federal direct loans that the Department of Ed. has sanctioned....you are guaranteed certain rights as a borrower. Many for-profit schools have what they call private or in-house private loans. In almost all of those cases, the school has a stake in it and will benefit no matter what your educational outcome. I can not speak to individual trade or specific programs at certain schools...but if it's a degree/certification you could get at multiple colleges...ask the question.

The Department of Education has a site where you can look up individual schools. https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/

If you are hell-bent on pursuing a specific career path...especially if medical...it might make a difference. If you have something you want to do, but might not be able to in the long run...just look at your options. I have two Masters Degrees...one in Accounting. Here's a secret...I didn't grow up wanting to work in financial aid. (Yet to meet someone who did...) It's where life took me. For the record, I love what I do...there is always a new challenge, always a problem to solve. The only reason is that I took a "semester off"...that lasted ten years. If you start college...barring a family tragedy...finish. You can change majors. Is it advisable? No. But...does the major define you? Heck, no! You go to college to "learn how to learn". (Advice, sadly, I was given after I took my "semester" off.) Again - depends on your goals...but as a working professional...the letters after your name from getting a degree will benefit in the long run.

As someone who hired employees for fifteen years...I never looked at the school the person graduated from. I cared more that they graduated. (Again, financial aid, not heart surgeon.) And one of my best hirees for financial aid went to culinary school...

I know things change every five years or so but...just throwing it out there...
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Greta’s Answer

It really does depend on financial aid. For example, the private schools I applied to ended up being cheaper than the public schools, so the stereotype of private schools being super expensive is often misleading.
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George’s Answer

Do some Google research on 1) The cost of the degree. That will vary by college (instate vs out of state, public vs. private, etc.). 2) What types of jobs can you do with degree and the average annual income. Are entry level position for those jobs plentiful or in short supply?

Make sure the $ to you spend on college will pay back with good annual income in a career field that is in demand.
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Eric’s Answer

One bit of advice I will offer is to look closely into scholarship opportunities at the private universities. While their documented tuition cost might be considerably higher than public universities, they often have a wider range of scholarships available that will bring their cost much more in line with public universities. They are in competition with the public universities, and they realize they cannot price themselves completely out of the game.

All three of my children have gone through college - two at a private university, one at a public university. My two that attended private college received substantial academic scholarships. My child who attended public university - while having the best grades and entrance exam scores of the three - did not receive any scholarships because they are much harder to come by at the public college. Ultimately the costs were not that far apart.
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Sharon’s Answer

It really depends. Public schools are very expensive now. You can apply to a variety of schools and see which give you options for scholarships and loans, then decide once you know how much each will cost and how much you like the schools and what they offer.
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Mack’s Answer

As for many questions, "It depends". An example or two:

If students know what major and/or career choice they DEFINITELY want to pursue, a private college that is known nationally or worldwide for that specific focus would likely be worth the money. Classes are likely small which provides close contact with a world renown professor. Networks established with classmates can be a benefit for a lifetime. The challenge of studying with high achievers in a chosen field is stimulating. And sometimes just the college name is enough to land a job in that field. Also, many private colleges have enormous endowments and scholarships can bring the cost in line with the lower cost state colleges.

If students are not absolutely sure of their career choice, an in-state public university can be a good choice. If graduate school is likely, save the extra expense for the graduate degree and use the time in undergrad to decide on an area of focus while also looking for the better schools for graduate work. Or, take the first year or two to confirm your preferred area of study and transfer to a private school if it makes sense then. But, a word of caution, sometimes it seems that scholarships are less likely to be available for transfers than for students entering as freshmen.

If students live in a state with a state school that is highly respected in their preferred field, then it may be difficult to justify the added cost of a private school!

And those considerations only address the field of study -- other considerations such as size, location (living at home, weather, safety, etc.), affiliation, cultural exposure can be involved in a college choice.
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James Constantine’s Answer

Dear CVOH,

Introduction

Privately funded and managed, private colleges are higher education institutions that often carry a heftier price tag than their public counterparts. This leads many students and their families to question the cost-benefit ratio of such an investment. To evaluate the worthiness of private colleges, several aspects need to be weighed.

Academic Excellence

A major draw for students to private colleges is their reputation for outstanding academic quality. These institutions often provide smaller class sizes, more individualized attention from professors, and superior facilities and research opportunities. This can result in a superior education and potentially brighter career prospects post-graduation.

Balancing Cost and Value

While private colleges generally have higher tuition fees than public institutions, they frequently offer more financial aid and scholarships to balance these costs. Students need to assess the overall value they will gain from attending a private college, considering factors such as graduation rates, alumni success, and potential post-graduation earnings.

Networking Prospects

Private colleges typically have robust alumni networks and industry connections. These networking prospects can be priceless when it comes to securing internships, job placements, or mentorship opportunities. The relationships forged during college can significantly influence a student's future career path.

Targeted Programs

Private colleges are often recognized for their targeted programs in areas such as business, engineering, or the arts. If a student's specific career ambition aligns with a particular private college's strengths, the investment in that institution may yield dividends in the form of specialized training and expertise.

Campus Life and Amenities

Private colleges frequently offer vibrant campus life with a variety of extracurricular activities, clubs, and organizations. They may also provide cutting-edge facilities, research centers, and study abroad opportunities that enrich the overall college experience. These factors can heavily influence some students' decision to attend a private college.

Personal Financial Circumstances

Ultimately, the value of a private college hinges on each student's personal financial circumstances. Factors such as family income, financial aid availability, potential scholarships, and willingness to assume student loans all play a part in determining the affordability of a private college.

Conclusion

In summary, the worthiness of private colleges depends on each student's priorities, goals, financial circumstances, and desired college experience. While private colleges offer unique benefits such as academic quality, networking opportunities, specialized programs, and campus resources, students must judiciously balance these advantages against the higher tuition costs associated with these institutions.

Top 3 Credible Sources Used:

U.S. News & World Report: Renowned for its comprehensive college and university rankings based on various factors like academic quality, graduation rates, and alumni success.

The College Board: Offers crucial information on college affordability trends and financial aid options for students attending private colleges.

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES): Provides reliable data on graduation rates at different types of institutions, including private colleges, helping students evaluate the value of their investment in higher education.

These sources have been key in providing accurate and current information on the topic of whether private colleges are worth the cost.

Stay blessed!
James Constantine Frangos.
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