Private Colleges May Be Forced To Limit Financial Aid

Compiled By Yaffa Klugerman
February 10, 2010

limited financial aidThe net cost of private college has actually decreased in recent years, but that may change as many institutions reconsider financial aid.

The Washington Post reports that according to the College Board's Trends in College Pricing report, the sticker price for tuition, fees and living expenses at private nonprofit colleges averaged $35,460 in 2009-10. But the net price average--representing what families actually paid after receiving grants, scholarships and financial aid--was $21,200. On the whole, tuition and fees have risen nearly one-third since fall 2004, but financial aid has risen faster.

"Net tuition is only 45 percent of the advertised tuition," noted David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, who was quoted by the Post. "That's a pretty significant difference."

At George Washington University, for example, the sticker price is $53,000 a year. But about 55 percent of the school's incoming freshmen received grants, bringing the net cost for these students down to $29,052.

Similarly, the Delaware County Daily Times reported that despite its $50,000-a-year price tag, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania was named the "Best Value Private College for 2010" by the Princeton Review and USA Today. The reason, explained Jim Bock, the school's dean of admissions and financial aid, is because generous aid packages can substantially reduce the sticker price to about $15,000.

"We are need-based, not want-based, probably only one of 20 or 30 schools with that policy," Bock explained to the Daily Times.

About half of Swarthmore's students receive financial aid, and the average award is $35,238. The college has made it a priority to meet the financial needs of qualified and committed students.

But other schools may be reconsidering their financial aid policies as need rises. In particular, the highly selective Dartmouth and Williams Colleges recently announced that they would no longer be offering aid packages which allow students to attend without having to take out loans. The New York Times reports that the Dartmouth's policy, which takes effect with the class entering in fall 2011, will expect financial-aid recipients from families with incomes above $75,000 to take out loans of $2,500 to $5,500.

The Associated Press [from an article originally located at] predicts that the weak economy will force other schools to take similar measures. "There's a bit of a feeling that in increasing aid, maybe colleges went a little overboard because there was a lot of panic a year ago," noted Roland Kinge, vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, who was quoted by the AP. "I think it's going to be a more austere year."

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