How Much Should Tuition Affect Your College Choice?

When it comes to your learning experience, college tuition is a difficult hurdle to come across. Although college costs are rising, there are other things to consider when deciding where to go to school.

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How Much Should Tuition Influence Your College Decision

College costs are rising dramatically each year, and many students and their families are taking a closer look at how desirable schools compare in price. Yet the cost of tuition, of course, cannot be the only factor in choosing an institution. So just how much should cost factor into which college a student attends?

College Costs Up Across the Board

If it seems to you that college costs are rapidly rising, you're not imagining things. College Board reports that the college cost inflation rate is 5-8% per year. With college costs going up at every type of postsecondary institution, families are increasingly looking for bargain schools in the higher ed landscape.

But students and parents know that cost can hardly be the only factor by which to select a school. When it comes to picking a college, the name of the game is 'fit.' Students need to find an institution that offers great academics, appealing extracurricular activities, an engaged student body and a comfortable campus. These and other academic and quality of life criteria are important predictors of student success.

The Reputation Factor

There is another factor that plays heavily into college choice, and that's institution reputation. Students know a school's reputation can enhance (or hinder) their chances of getting a job. While few would argue that an elite alma mater can impress prospective employers, quantifying the effect can be difficult. According to the Washington Post, 30 CEOs of the top 100 companies in the Fortune 500 went to an Ivy League school.

Even given these numbers, an analysis of whether attending a prestigious school is worth the money is difficult because the actual cost differs between students. While elite private institutions like Columbia (approximately $66,000 in total costs) and Vassar College (nearly $64,000) rank among the most expensive U.S. institutions, financial aid can offset their high sticker prices. Large endowments at prestigious private schools ensure that students demonstrating financial need pay a fraction of published costs. Cash-strapped state schools often provide far stingier financial aid packages, which can make the cost of attending them higher than an 'expensive' private school.

All Things Considered . . .

Students and their families certainly need to be cognizant of cost during the college selection process, but they should not let price be the sole factor in making a decision. Academics must play an important part, of course, especially if a student plans to pursue a specialized discipline not available at other institutions. Extracurricular activities, campus environment and other quality of life factors should also be considered. After all, students who aren't happy at a school may ultimately feel the need to drop out or transfer, the financial fallout of which could exceed the cost of going to another (more expensive) school in the first place.

Want to start saving for the school that's right for you? Find five ways high school students can start saving for college.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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