Can’t afford a private university? Think again.

*** Tips for keeping college costs reasonable from BusinessWise columnists Tom Cooney & Crystal Faulkner can be found here ***

Many people simply assume they will not be able to afford to send their children to a private university, and they limit exploration to public state options.

However, in many cases, private universities are similar in cost – and sometimes even less – than what you’d pay at a state school.  And this does not necessarily mean the students are getting scholarships.  Many private schools actually offer need-based help to allow students from all walks of life to attend.

While this article in the Washington Post is a couple years old, it still provides a good price comparison between public and private schools.  The article looks at the list Kiplinger Personal Finance put together that named their “best values” for both public and private colleges & universities for that year.

Many people are most surprised by the statement in their report that 39 of the top 100 four-year public institutions of higher education charged about the same or less than the average annual in-state full price.

As an example, let’s look at their #3 picks, University of Virginia for public school, Yale University for private.  As of January, 2010, UVa was coming in at $7.5k for in-state tuition, and $29k for out-of-state.  Yet Yale, which had total costs of $48.5k, came down to $12.7k after factoring in need-based aid (as an Ivy League school, Yale does not offer non-need based aid).

This is true of many private schools, including many Ivies.  The best news:  many provide this aid as grants, not loans, so your child will not be unduly burdened with debt upon graduation.  A number even have online calculators or comparisons to typical public university cost (including aid), showing how these prestigious universities can be affordable for just about anyone.  So while a school like Yale may start out at twice the amount of Ohio State, what you actually pay could be much less.  If you want to see how much you’d pay for a school like this, check out Harvard, Yale, Princeton or University of Pennsylvania – all have easy to use calculators that will give you a ballpark of your final cost for your child to attend.

The net:  if your child has an interest in a certain school, and has the qualifications to be considered, don’t automatically throw that school out because the cost is too high.  Look at their online information, talk to their financial aid people, and keep an open mind –  you may find your child’s dream school is well within your budget.

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