9 Financial Aid Questions and Answers

This post is for current and future college students. It attempts to provide answers for questions that impact each and every undergraduate student seeking assistance with financing their college education.

  1. Can I know exactly how much a college education will cost before the freshman year?

Unfortunately as much as we’d like to know and be able to plan for college costs, until one completes college, one doesn’t really know how much a college will cost. Here are some reasons why one cannot know the entire cost of college on the front end.

First, financial aid eligibility. Need and/or merit based grants come with financial and/or academic requirements. If one does not meet those financial and/or academic requirements eligibility for these grants can be lost. Losing a grant means that students and/or parents need to come up with a way to cover college costs.

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The 4 Building Blocks of The College Sticker Price

Sticker price represents the total cost of a year of college and is a combination of four categories of costs. While very few people pay the sticker price it is helpful to know what these costs entail and where to go to learn more information about them. Sticker price is also referred to as sticker shock and it is one of the main factors impacting the college attendance decision. However, as noted before, very very few people pay sticker price because many qualify for some type of grants or scholarships.


  1. Tuition represents the amount of dollars an institution charges per credit hour. Depending on the institutional control (public or private) the institution has varying degrees of control over it. Some public institutions have no control over their tuition while other public ones have full control over it. For privates tuition setting control belongs to the institution and they can adjust it as they see fit. Tuition adjustments, typically increases, occur before the fall semester and an institution’s website is the best way to get a clear picture of the actual cost.

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Five Facts about Tuition Discounting

College costs can play an important role in the college selection process. As early admission and early decision time is upon us and since nobody wants to graduate with a lot of debt, knowing what tuition discounting is as well as how it can be impacted by changes in finances and academic performance is important.

Tuition discounting is a common practice used by institutions (colleges and universities) to decrease costs and attract students.

  • Tuition discounting represents the amount of grants and scholarships that a student gets but does not have to repay it back. The main source for these discounts is institutional aid (the institution’s funds). Applying for other scholarships can help boost the discounting amount, but the largest amount of funds would typically come from the institution.

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College Costs between 1998-2016


Here is the link to some historical information on tuition and fees as well as room and board costs charged by about 3,000 colleges and universities in the US, between 1998 and 2016.

The list includes 2- and 4-year, public and private-for, and private not-for-profit. These are sticker prices (as in published tuition and fees) and do not include tuition discounts.


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