kitchen table math, the sequel: America's Ten Most Expensive Colleges

Thursday, October 13, 2011

America's Ten Most Expensive Colleges

America's Ten Most Expensive Colleges—And How Much Financial Aid They Provide
Via Good Education.

My husband is a 1985 graduate of #6 - Claremont McKenna,  where the average student currently pays $20,423 of the $55,865 sticker price.


Anonymous said...

The numbers for the first college listed are interesting:

"The official price tag might be sky-high, but Sarah Lawrence is generous with its financial aid: In 2009-2010, 62 percent of students received some form of aid, bringing the average cost down to $26,112."

So ...

38% of the students pay the full tuition, and 62% get some sort of discount. The discount is *huge*.

0.38×59,170 + 0.62×N = 26,112
22,484 + 0.62×N = 26,112
0.62×N = 26,112 - 22,484 = 3,628
N = 5,852

So ... 32% of the students pay $59K per year tuition, and the other 62% pay, on average, $6K per year.

REALLY ????????

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

Columbia has an even larger spread between the kids paying full ride and the kids getting aid.

"Columbia sports the highest sticker price in the Ivy League, but the school's almost 8,000 undergraduates enjoy a student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1—2:1 in some science departments. In 2009-2010, 60 percent of students received financial aid, taking the average cost per student down to $18,253, the least expensive among the top 10."

0.40×56,310 + 0.60×N = 18,253
22,524 + 0.6×N = 18,253
0.6×N = 18,253 - 22,524 = -4271
N = -7118

So ... 40% of the students pay $56K per year tuition, and the other 60% are paid, on average, $7,100 a year to attend Columbia.

I'm trying not to by cynical, but is it possible that these schools are lying to us to increase the number of applications and thus boost their US News ranking?

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

Okay, the blurb on Claremont probably explains what is going on:

"... 43 percent received some form of financial aid. Even better, the college eliminated student loans from financial aid packages in 2008, so all financial aid comes in the form of grants."

So, the "average cost per student" at, say, Columbia, treats loans (money that the kids have to pay back) as a NON-cost. This is kinda like me describing a new BMW as only costing the $3K down ... because the rest was financed with loans.

Yep, the colleges are lying.


-Mark Roulo

Allison said...

Mark, I don't understand your comment. Is it about their fake definition of "cost" in the first place?

These colleges don't make the kids take out loans. When the student would need loans, they just grant the student that money instead.

That's true at Yale absolutely, and maybe all of the Ivies at this point.

Many schools are free to families making less than 150k in income (don't know how they account for non income assets), and scale up to asking only for 10% at most of income for the next 100k or so, I think. It could easily be that 60% of the student body has family income under 200k and 40% over...

Anonymous said...

My second post shows that the numbers provided in the article require Columbia to be PAYING 60% of its students to attend (if costs != loans).

I really doubt that this is the case.

-Mark Roulo

Grace said...

Yes, in the weird world of college financial aid, the chance to borrow money is considered an “award” to a student.

I posted about this here

Grace said...

It is true that most of the Ivies (if not all) meet the full "financial needs" of students without resorting to loans, but the rest of the schools not so much. NYU in particular is notorious for graduating students with very high student loan debt.

SteveH said...

"Why are financial aid packages that are nothing but the opportunity to borrow money called “awards”?"

So, "award" doesn't mean free? Does "grant" still mean free? At the Harvard admissions meeting I went to, the representative said that parents making between $50-$150K pay only between 2%-10% each year. I assumed this was without any loans. Is that correct?

Can someone give a quick rundown on the process of applying for financial aid (merit versus need) and what the real costs are? I assume that merit grants (?) are discussed in the acceptance letter, but when/how are need-based awards handled?

SteveH said...

"...taking the average cost per student down to $18,253, ..."

That must be the average for just those getting financial aid. I assume that's with no additional loans.

ChemProf said...

For need-based aid, the form you file is the FAFSA. It is a federal form and everyone uses it. See for example:

The form is the same, but every school has its own formula for giving need-based aid, and they won't tell you exactly what it is. Pomona comes pretty close to laying theirs out here, though;

Merit aid you usually get just through the application process. Harvey Mudd is clearer than most about merit aid (but also doesn't give much).

Again, merit aid is mostly a tool for second tier places to improve their profile. If you really want to go after merit aid, use the college profiles to target schools where your son's SAT scores are at or above the 75% values.

Grace said...

Steve, "grant" still means free, but that may change next year. :) Seriously, you never know what's on the horizon.

The timing can vary, but as ChemProf said, students typically file either a FAFSA and/or a PROFILE to be considered for need-based FA. Decisions on any awards may not be sent out with the acceptance letter, but it will be shortly thereafter. Except in some cases for Early Action acceptances made in Dec/Jan (or sooner), the FA award letter might not come until the spring.

Grace said...

I think one of the key things is that when a student is initially creating his list of colleges, financial aid should be one of the factors to consider. How much can I afford to pay for college? Does the college offer FA, either need-based or merit? Am I too "rich" to qualify for need-based? Am I competitive for merit aid? There are lots of questions to ask.

For starters, I suggest using an online calculator to get an idea on predicting what your Expected Financial Contribution (EFC) will be.

Here's one from the CollegeBoard.

Allison said...

Mark said:--My second post shows that the numbers provided in the article require Columbia to be PAYING 60% of its students to attend (if costs != loans)...I really doubt that this is the case.

I believe it's true--they are paying their students to attend-- for most Ivies, Columbia included. In general, the cost of an Ivy League undergrad education to the university is 200% of what their undergrad tuition covers in the first place. These schools afford this by having giant endowments, in addition to having very expensive graduate schools and professional schools that have high tuition that is paid for by someone. The Ivies and the other very tip top elite also have massive federal funding for their science programs, which essentially pays for their liberal arts programs.

20 years ago, I heard the head of Harvard said "all we need is a gigabuck or two" to make undergrad tuition free to the student. That was their plan, and largely, the Ivies have done it. Their endowment is that big--a billion bucks generated enough income to kick off the funding for the rest.

Now, that doesn't mean Macalester College or Skidmore is doing that, but yes, I think it's likely Columbia is. I'll try to find their annual report later and see if they break out the cost of undergrad education in it.