Everybody knows that college prices never stop rising.
What families often don't realize is that published college price tags are pretty much meaningless. Most students receive some type of price break, thanks to federal or state grants and/or discounts from the schools themselves.
Families must look beyond the sticker prices to determine what a particular school is going to cost them. What is far more important than sticker prices is a school's net price.
A net price refers to the cost after all scholarships and grants are deducted. For instance, if you got into a university with a $30,000 price tag, but received a $7,000 grant from the school, along with a $2,000 state grant, the net price would drop to $21,000.
[Learn more about scholarships.]
The U.S. Department of Education wants families to begin thinking about net prices when they shop for colleges. As part of that effort, the DOE launched a new website this month that contains the names of schools with the highest and lowest net prices among public schools, as well as nonprofit and for-profit private institutions. On the site, you can also find schools with the highest and lowest price tags, as well as schools that have been increasing their tuition the fastest.
How do schools end up on the list of the highest net prices—a list with which no college wants to be associated? These schools charge extremely high tuition, but provide little in terms of institutional grants to their students.
[Get tips on how to pay for college.]
When I looked at the 15 private nonprofit colleges with the highest net prices, art and music schools earned seven of the spots:
|School name||Net price|
|Art Center College of Design (CA)||$39,672|
|New School (NY)||$39,004|
|School of the Art Institute of Chicago||$38,965|
|The Boston Conservatory||$37,798|
|California Institute of the Arts||$36,997|
|Manhattan School of Music (NY)||$36,208|
|Rhode Island School of Design||$35,991|
|Pratt Institute (NY)||$35,506|
|Santa Clara University (CA)||$35,245|
|Northwestern Health Sciences University (MN)||$35,062|
|St. Joseph’s University (PA)||$34,548|
|Simmons College (MA)||$34,498|
|Drew University (NJ)||$34,379|
|Beacon College (FL)||$34,068|
|New York University||$34,011|
Among the state universities with the highest net prices, Pennsylvania universities stand out.
|School name||Net price|
|University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio||$24,192|
|University of Guam||$23,902|
|St. Mary’s College of Maryland||$21,468|
|Rowan University (NJ)||$19,344|
|Miami University—Oxford (OH)||$19,305|
|Penn State University||$19,056|
|Penn State—Erie—Behrend College||$18,857|
|University of Pittsburgh||$18,786|
|Penn State Berks||$18,048|
|University of Cincinnati||$17,997|
|University of Colorado at Boulder||$17,929|
|University of Missouri—Kansas City||$17,782|
|University of Maryland||$17,626|
You can find the other schools on these lists, along with other tables, by visiting the federal government's new College Affordability and Transparency Center.
[Read about using an aid calculator to get the real cost of college.]
Before you apply to any school, check out its net pricing. It's going to be much easier to do this soon because all colleges and universities, which participate in the federal financial aid program, must install a net price calculator on their websites by late October. These calculators should help make college pricing transparent for the first time and that's something to celebrate.