Beware the Fine Print of Differential Tuition Pricing
I’ve always had a saying” Colleges are priced like houses and sold like cars.”
Thankfully, car buyers have the Internet. They can find a true market value, usually a lower price, for the car they want as well as the true value to the dealer for the car they already own.
This is not quite so with many public universities. Too often you will be asked to pay a higher price, called differential tuition.
Differential tuition means that students who enroll in a school with supposedly higher expenses, such as the business school, the college of engineering or the college of nursing, pay more than students who enter undecided on a major or choose to go to a college of liberal arts.
What can students and families do?
Read the fine print on the tuition and fees pag.
Know exactly what you will be expected to pay, and when. At some schools students are enrolled in a “pre” status for their first three or four semesters. They may pay the lower rate before they are formally admitted to their school and major.
Ask a decision maker within the school to tell you what the additional fees pay for
Are they used for student services, academic programs, or career or alumni services unique to the school? Also ask if these fees are likely to increase. Some costs, such as instructional expenses and technology, go up every year.
Play with the net price calculator on the school’s financial aid Web pages.
Make sure these added fees can be factored into your costs as well as eligibility for need-based and merit-based financial aid. Some calculators may have a drop down for major or school, so that the appropriate tuition and fee charges can be factored. Others may not. Assessments per credit are hard to factor. Not every student has the same course schedule. In that case, consult the financial aid office at the school.
Differential tuition is hardly a best practice. But it is one that every student and family should be prepared to address.
It might even be a reason to choose one major, for instance economics over a program in the business school or chemistry over chemical engineering. But if the school is going to do considerably more for the extra money, don’t fret over the dollars and cents.
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