No end in sight as tuition hits $50K

Talk about sticker shock: Three local private colleges are set to break the $50,000 tuition mark next school year, and several others are getting close to crossing that threshold. More

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No end in sight as tuition hits $50K

Posted 5/3/10

Talk about sticker shock: Three local private colleges are set to break the $50,000 tuition mark next school year, and several others are getting close to crossing that threshold.

Administrators at Brown University, Providence College and Wheaton College in Norton each have approved tuition, room, board and fees in excess of $51,000 starting in September, meaning the full price tag to attend those schools for four years now will run more than $200,000.

At the same time, the Rhode Island School of Design and Bryant University are flirting with the milestone. RISD set its price at $49,605 for 2010-2011, while Bryant’s will be $45,885.

Yet local school administrators say the full tuition, room, board and fees are rarely what families pay when a student enrolls, particularly those families most in need.

At Brown this year, for instance, the price for tuition and housing for an undergrad totaled $49,128. But the university said the average grant package for members of the class of 2013 was $33,290, leaving students and their families receiving aid with an average bill of $15,838.

Despite the published price increases, the College Board – a nonprofit that represents more than 5,600 school and colleges nationwide in standardized testing and financial aid matters – said the net cost for an average private college student nationwide stands at $21,240 this year, down $190 from five years ago.

“The decline in inflation-adjusted net tuition results from rapid growth in grant aid and tax benefits,” said Sandy Baum, a policy analyst for the College Board. “The federal Pell Grant has increased quite a bit in recent years. … States and institutions have also increased their grant aid,” she said.

“I think schools have been very sensitive to the cost issue, particularly in the last few years,” said Daniel Egan, president of the Rhode Island Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Still, while need-based financial aid awards have gotten more generous in many cases as tuitions have climbed, Providence-based independent college adviser Cristiana Quinn said she is concerned about those families that are too wealthy to qualify for much aid but don’t have enough income to comfortably afford the rising costs.

“The competitive colleges are saying ‘We’re going to charge a greater amount to students who can pay the full bill,’ ” Quinn said. But, she says, many families who would find it difficult to pay the full bill are not identified as needing financial aid through the application process.

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