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Why Pay Sticker Price for College?

If you’ve ever bought a new car, I doubt you paid the sticker price. Would it surprise you that only 12% of those attending high priced private colleges pay sticker price? Leaving 88% of families with hefty discounts often times bringing the cost down to that of a state school or lower.

I recall years ago when I had to finally replace my trusty mini-van after almost a decade.  Frankly, I was ready to move on to something non-van! I started my research of reviews and price.  We did buy new and of course, we did not pay sticker price.  No one does, right?  So can the same sticker price rule also apply to college?  Yes!

Sticker Price

Sticker price for college is the total Cost of Attendance (COA).  This means tuition + room/board + books + fees.  Note: COA is not just tuition + room/board!

Many families look at the sticker price of college, particularly private schools, and run scared.  This is a mistake, in most cases.  Let’s use a few examples from Ohio where college choices are abundant.

There are two figures we are interested in to see the difference between sticker price and net price at a school; when you examine both you find that particularly privates offer deep discounts.  Let’s use 2017-18 costs as reported n the CollegeBoard’s Annual Survey of Colleges. In this case, we are going to use the less daunting in-state figures for a student living on campus in 2017-18 school year.  That number is $25,290.  Sounds in line with what you likely expected?

For our comparison school, we’ll examine Ohio Wesleyan just north of OSU.  A private school and one recognized by one of my favorite non-profits, Colleges That Change Lives. Sticker price for that same year comes in at $58,260 (2015-16) living on campus. Gasp!

The Good News

Much like the True Price Comparison I was able to find when looking at cars, you can find the data for colleges.  Get ready to put the smile back on your face.  The “Net Price” students actually paid that year to attend was $27,967 to attend; a discount of approximately 52%.  Furthermore, Ohio Wesleyan has a better four year graduation rate than OSU (62% OWU v. 59% OSU). For some, it may be worth the extra $2,000’ish to attend a smaller school with PhD’s teaching class instead of teaching assistants (they don’t have any).

Read Between the Lines

There are other privates that don’t have great news. When we delve into their numbers, we find they don’t publish net prices or there isn’t much of a discount.  That can’t be good for the pocketbook.  However, there are plenty out there that make it almost, or in some cases, more affordable to go private!  Do your homework.

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