Students who choose not to apply to private colleges may be unaware of financial benefits.
Students looking to transfer to a four-year university are faced with two major options: public or private. While applications to the former outnumber those for private colleges, these often-overlooked alternatives offer an experience that may outweigh or balance the costs.
An editorial featured March 18 in the Contra Costa Times stressed the lack of cost effectiveness in the majority of colleges, specifically those in California. Public universities, including those in the UC and CSU systems, have experienced a tremendous increase in fees in the past 10 years. The spike is due, in part, to the financial crisis the state is experiencing, causing a drawback in federal funding for education.
“Amazingly, recent fee increases have sent University of California and California State University costs above those at Harvard and Yale for middleincome students who do not qualify for reduced fees,” the editorial reads.
According to the article, fees in the UC and CSU systems have seen an inflation rate of 14 percent from 2006 to 2011. Aside from the lack of funding from the state, budgetary issues are also effected by reduced fees for low income students and an increasing amount of individuals returning to college or transferring for a bachelor’s degree.
Private universities may offer less of a strain for students from any background—assuming they have good or above-average standings at their previous schools. According to U.S. News, the average cost of attendance at a private university in 2010 was $35,000. This may seem like an overwhelming price tag for education, but many do not take into consideration the aid available to those who apply.
In California, a resident attending a private university can apply for both state and private funding; in addition to federal aid, grants and scholarships are available through private foundations and alumni. These merit and need based awards at private universities range from full tuition to a large fraction of the costs.
However, affordability is not always the weighing factor for students who apply to private colleges. Andres Cunningham, an alumnus of Whittier College in California, chose a private university for its smaller, more intimate classrooms and the opportunity to be involved on campus beyond the student level.
“I could have gotten a great education anywhere,” said Cunningham, “… but I wanted something more. You can bond with your peers and join clubs, but being able to talk with professors— even eat with them at the same table made me feel like I was more than a number.”
For Cunningham, the college experience cannot be decided by cost. He thinks students with good academic standings can find assistance through a myriad of sources that will only enhance the feeling of being supported by a community.
“Everybody knew my name,” said Cunningham. “I still live in the area, and I’ve created friendships that are truly priceless. To be honest, I paid very little because the college was very gracious with scholarships and grants—so long as I kept my end up and did well in class.”