For many years, people have viewed a public state university as their “Plan B”. In other words, if finances were tights, a public university would be where their children would attend. New numbers coming in from the Department of Education suggest that is no longer the case. In fact, last year tuition at public colleges rose to record amounts.
One of the reasons for these high increases is due to large cutbacks by both state and federal governments. A lot of parents remember how affordable going to college was years ago, especially at public colleges. Sadly, those days are gone. Take for example Penn State where today undergraduate students are paying $21,342 after grants and scholarships. This is occurring because state funding is down by 62% from what it was during 1970-1971.
California is not much different. California has the largest state university system in the country and has cut 14.3% of the funding per student. Similarly, the state university system of Florida has reduced their funding by more than $1 billion over the last six years. Finally, where we just look at the national public university system, we see states cutting their funding by 8% on average, while increasing tuition by 6.3%.
Public Universities vs. Private Universities
What all this shows is that the costs of public schools are approach what private schools charge. The numbers clearly demonstrate that the public universities are no longer the bargain they used to be. Today, many private colleges are pulling back on their tuition increases and giving out some very generous scholarships.
Many times when I work with parents we quickly discover that a private university will offer a much better financial package than a local public school. The reason is private universities understand the financial challenge many families are experiencing and they don’t want to be priced out of consideration. Consequently, they make attractive financial packages to pull in families.
As we have seen above, it is not always cheaper to attend a public university. The major take away is that today, more than ever, it is vital each family do a complete analysis before choosing a school. No longer can families rely on preconceived notions or rumors of what institutions cost. You also need to know about the different financial incentives each school offers in order to make the best choice.
Having access to this information and comparing the total costs is the only way for you to get the best value and avoid paying too much for a college education.