If you are:
A) A college student
B) A soon-to-be college student
C) A recent college grad
D) Informed about society at its most basic levels
Then you’re probably aware that college tuition prices are rising past the realm of affordability for many Americans. Below is a graph (adjusted for inflation) that helps put the situation into perspective—rising tuition compounded with stagnant median incomes make the average price for college less affordable every year.
But students often pay less than the sticker price for tuition. Sometimes much less. So if you’re worried about college because of price, it’s important to know what your best options are.
And thanks to the Higher Education Act of 1965, which requires every aid-granting university to publish their average net price, every prospective student can get a good idea of how much they will actually pay to attend a university before they apply.
Note that the act requires universities to publish their net price, which is different from tuition. Net price, as defined by the National Center for Education Statistics, is the total cost of attendance minus the average amount of federal, state/local government, or institutional grant and scholarship aid. (Total cost of attendance is the sum of published tuition and required fees, books and supplies, and the weighted average for room and board and other expenses.)
The NCES breaks its net price data into five income brackets—$30,00 or less, $30,001-$48,000, $48,001-$75,000, $75,001-$110,000, and 110,000 or more—and shows what students in each bracket pay on average to attend a university. After financial aid is factored in, the net price the total student population pays at most universities, is lower than the advertised tuition.
Below are 17 4-year colleges that help make college affordable; they have some of the lowest net prices in the nation for students who come from households with incomes of less than $30,000 per year. A student in the lowest income bracket who attends Harvard, for example, can expect to pay $2,880 per year not only for tuition, but also room and board, books and supplies, and all other costs of attendance.
If you’re curious to see the tuition and net price information for a particular college or income bracket, you can find the information on FindTheBest’s tuition topic.