Private Colleges Offering Free College Scholarships, Grants, & Discounts at Historic Levels in 2017

Private Colleges Offering Free College Scholarships, Grants, & Discounts at Historic Levels in 2017
Susan Dutca-Lovell

The chances of getting into a private college at a significantly discounted price are fairly high these days, according to a new report by the National Association of College and University Business Officers. But have students always paid those crazy expensive college tuition costs?

Roughly 88 percent of first-time freshman at select colleges and universities received some type of free college scholarship or grant to cover 56 percent of tuition costs. While the priciest private colleges cost about $50,000 just for tuition, the average private college education costs about $33,500. With college freshman grants and scholarships factored in, the average costs drop to roughly $18,000/year; meaning the net tuition is about $15,000/yr. All in all, the percentage of freshman paying full sticker price dropped to a historic low of 12 percent within a year.

Tuition price reduction is excellent news for college students, however, it makes it harder to colleges to make money. Net tuition revenue only increased 0.4 percent and although $33,500/year for college still seems expensive, "no one winds up actually paying that price." Private and public colleges also use college financial aid to entice "very qualified and/or relatively wealthy" students; even with these discounts, free college scholarships and grants, about half of wealthy students end up paying full price.

Of all the financial aid distributed, 40 percent is need-based scholarships and grants, and 20 percent is academic scholarships and extracurricular scholarships and grants. The remaining 40 percent is both merit- and need-based scholarships and grants. Consumer psychology dictates that colleges raise their sticker prices and college scholarships because it gives families "something to brag about;" it is essentially deciding between going to "a $40,000 a year school that offers a $20,000 scholarship" versus "a $20,000 school that offers no scholarship." Being able to win a free college scholarship "makes you feel significantly different about the quality, value and appreciation you are getting from the institution," according to Simpson College's Dean of Students.

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