Are you interested in pursuing a private liberal arts education, but are scared off by the high price tag? It’s true that most liberal arts colleges have high “sticker prices,” but you shouldn’t be scared off by this. The truth is, many liberal arts colleges offer hefty scholarships, grants and other financial aid that a lot of state schools simply can’t offer.
Understanding College Pricing
When you apply to a college, you shouldn’t focus on the advertised ticket price.
Liberal arts colleges are the boutiques of the college world. They offer high-quality college educations with a high sticker price, but then they offer significant discounts, in the form of financial aid packages, making them not all that more expensive than most state schools (especially if you were considering an out of state college experience).
What Factors to Consider
The question is this: how qualified are you to go to this school, and how much financial aid can you get to help you afford the education? If you scored in the upper 25% of the application pool (SAT scores, ACT scores, and GPA), and you bring something unique to the school (a talent, perhaps you are an accomplished musician, or maybe you are an excellent cross country runner or lacrosse player), you may very well get a generous scholarship or grant that brings the true cost down to the state school level.
Financial Aid Packages Available
Private liberal arts colleges usually run on endowments, alumni contributions and other such benefits. They offer financial aid packages based on financial need and merit (meaning you bring something special and needed to the college, such as academic excellence or a talent.) Many liberal arts colleges will also offer on-campus jobs, work-study programs or student loan packages.
What to Watch For
Keep in mind, the catch with financial aid packages is the fact that you have to apply and qualify each year. This means that you might qualify for a generous financial aid package this year, but not qualify for as much aid next year, should your parents’ financial situation change (or your situation change.)
However, colleges want to you to graduate (it helps their numbers as well as yours) and they know they are competing with the big name Ivy League players and the state colleges, so they are usually pretty good about providing comparable packages all 4 years.