Attending a Private School Can be Affordable

Tyson Schritter / Colleges of Distinction »

Reviewed and edited by Tyson Schritter : 06 July, 2024.

For many high school students, the prospect of college costs can be overwhelming. Choosing between in-state schools, public universities, religious colleges, and private colleges involves careful consideration of budget constraints.

Most students start with the misunderstanding that all private colleges are unaffordable. This is unfortunate, because some of the best higher education in America is administered in private colleges. If you’re looking for a private college that’s affordable, look no further—we’ve created a collection of colleges and tips to help you seek out affordable options for private college.

Understanding the Costs of Private Colleges

Initial sticker shock is common among applicants to private colleges. Tuition rates often range from $20,000 to $60,000 per year before financial aid, leading many to assume these schools are financially out of reach.

However, private colleges frequently offer more substantial financial aid packages compared to public universities. After factoring in scholarships and grants, the net cost of tuition can often be comparable or even lower than that of public institutions.

What’s the Actual Price of Tuition?

Let’s take a moment to define a couple terms to better understand the actual cost of attending a private college.

Posted price: This the price that colleges post on their website, typically considered the maximum price of a full-time student. It’s unlikely you’ll have to pay that much money.

Net price: This is the price a student will pay after scholarships and grants are deducted from the posted price. This is the price that you should use when comparing the cost of colleges. If one school has offered you a great scholarship, it’s net price is likely to be better than that of a comparable school that has not offered any aid.

Knowing the difference between the posted price and the net price can make a big difference in which schools you choose to apply to and attend. Your ultimate decision in which school you choose is deeply impacted by your understanding, calculation, and comparison of your options’ net prices.

The Private School Cost Calculation Process

If you’re certain that you want to attend a private school, it’s time to start looking into which schools will offer you financial aid and how much that aid affects your cost of attendance.

Below are some foolproof steps for you to take in order to calculate the cost of each private school you’re interest in. Keep in mind that some factors of the final cost of college won’t be included here; special, merit-based scholarships cannot be included in this calculation until you’ve applied and received the award. If you know how much merit-based scholarship you’ve been offered, you can get an even more accurate picture of the school’s final cost.

Calculating Your Private College Expenses

  1. Gather tax documents (ask your parents if you’d like some help).
  2. Go to a tuition calculator website.
  3. Plug in your numbers to the tuition calculator.
  4. Save the results, including the starting cost of tuition, for later comparison.
  5. Go to the next private college website on your list.
  6. Continue these steps until you’ve calculated the cost of each private college you’re interested in attending.

Then it’s time to make comparisons. Once you’ve collected all of your data, you can compare the cost of attending each school. This may not be a complete picture if you can’t include merit-based scholarships, outside scholarships, or government grants, but it’s a good first step in assessing the cost of different private colleges.

The Value of Private Schools

When you consider the actual price you end up paying, private colleges may actually be a better value. Consider that many private schools offer:

  • Smaller class sizes
  • More interaction between professors and students
  • Classes that are more often taught by professors than graduate students
  • A smaller, more tightly knit student body
  • More opportunities to gain leadership experience

Depending on the experiences and outcomes you want in your college experience, a private school may be an even better value than a public one.

Tips to Make Private College More Affordable

Public or private, college is a big investment. There’s no way to get around this fact in the modern world. Here are five more tips and tricks to help lower your out-of-pocket cost for college.

  1. Earn credits elsewhere. Most colleges allow you to transfer credits from other colleges. There are often limitations to what can transfer and a maximum number of credits that can be completed at other schools, but any transferred credits can help to lower your tuition cost. Look into the credit transfer rules of any school you’re interested in attending. Credits can be earned through community college courses either prior to attending college or throughout the summer and winter breaks.
  2. Explore all aid options. You can receive scholarships and grants from many different sources. Your school may offer some, the government has ways of helping out, and there are numerous scholarships out there for special interests, personality traits, and even body characteristics. Don’t think that there isn’t scholarship money out there for you; aid is available for everyone.
  3. FAFSA. Be sure to fill out your FAFSA application properly and on time. Even if you don’t think you’re eligible for aid from the government, fill it out and see if you are. Be sure to research other federal aid programs or even aid from your local government.
  4. Be creative. Not only can you earn credits elsewhere, but you can even fulfill requirements in high school by taking AP course, college-level courses online, and through dual-enrollment classes that afford you both high school and college credit at the same time.
  5. Reduce materials. College materials, like textbooks and various supplies, can make up a significant portion of your college costs. Be sure to start your research early and look at many different options before making any purchases. There are many options out there for you to get textbooks for a significantly lower price than at the college bookstore.

Affordable Private Colleges of Distinction

Colleges of Distinction has vetted many of the finest private schools in the country. We hope that this breakdown has helped you realize that an education at a private college is within your financial reach.