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College Planning 101: What do College Tuition, New Cars and Mattresses have in Common?


Considering a new car purchase? When you do, I suspect many of you wait for the best rebates and incentives. Is an old mattress contributing to a bad back? If you are in the market for a new one, I hope you don’t pay full price. Pick up any newspaper – mattresses are perpetually on sale. Does thinking about the rising cost of college tuition cause you to break out in a cold sweat? Many things are not as they appear. College tuition is one of them and truly does have something in common with new cars and mattresses – you many families do not pay full price.

Although the “sticker price” of college may seem outrageously high, in reality colleges and universities employ an endless variety of incentives, deals, and givebacks to lighten the financial burden. At one selective university in the Northeast, not a single freshman paid full-tuition in 2014. Why do colleges offer such incentives? They simply have to. Competition among schools for college bound students is intense. These same colleges and universities cannot operate solely on full pay tuition students. Finally, schools value enrolling a diverse student body. Diversity does not mean strictly ethnic – they also value geographic, academic, financial, athletic, and other institutionally defined areas of diversity.

To remain competitive and satisfy internal needs schools offer a variety of institutional grants and scholarships to attract students. As hard as it is to look at the sticker price of a college and not shudder – your best strategy is to eliminate a school from financial consideration only after acceptance and review of a financial aid award. In many instances you may be surprised to learn, your out of pocket expenses may be less at a “high tuition” versus a “lower tuition” school. Don’t let “sticker” price deter you from considering any college.

Let’s dispel another myth about cost. Not every institution will cost you the proverbial arm and a leg. Unfortunately, too much of what you read in the mainstream media is focused on the rising cost of tuition at “certain” (think Ivies and other highly selective) colleges. The stark reality is that the “prestigious” enroll a very small % of any incoming freshman class. The Uber prestigious brand name eight Ivy League schools collectively enrolled a mere 14,000 freshman (College Navigator approx. enrollment figures) out of approximately 3.3 million first-time freshman who enrolled in all postsecondary degree-granting institutions (National Center for Education Statistics) in the Fall of 2013. If you do the math that is less than 1/2 of 1% of all new freshman in 2013 or any year for that matter.

Yet the mainstream media spends an inordinate amount of ink on these types of schools as if they represent all that American higher education has to offer – and far too many drink the Kool-Aid. Fixating on higher priced schools as the only ticket to a quality education and subsequent career. Which in reality is bunk.
While the cost of a college education has increased significantly in recent years, there are many affordable schools out there. For example, every school in the University of Wisconsin systems (with the exception of UW-Madison), have current tuition and fee rates under $10,000 annually for in state residents and only slightly higher for Minnesota residents under the state reciprocity program. The same can be said for all the schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU).

Don’t let the price of college stress you out – all you need is a good plan. To lean more attend the upcoming College Planning 101 presentation.

You may also contact Jeff directly at briaconsulting@gmail.com to schedule a free consultation if you are in the midst of a college search and have some questions.