OUCH: Some Colleges Set To Charge $90,000+ A Year

As more than 2 million graduating high school students from across the United States finalize their decisions on what college to attend this fall, many are facing jaw-dropping costs — in some cases, as much as $95,000.

A number of private colleges — some considered elite and others middle-of-the-pack — have exceeded the $90,000 threshold for the first time this year as they set their annual costs for tuition, board, meals and other expenses. That means a wealthy family with three children could expect to shell out more than $1 million by the time their youngest child completes a four-year degree.

But the sticker price tells only part of the story. Many colleges with large endowments have become more focused in recent years on making college affordable for students who aren’t wealthy. Lower-income families may be required to pay just 10% of the advertised rate and, for some, attending a selective private college can turn out to be cheaper than a state institution.

“Ninety thousand dollars clearly is a lot of money, and it catches people’s attention, for sure,” said Phillip Levine, a professor of economics at Wellesley College near Boston. “But for most people, that is not how much they’re going to pay. The existence of a very generous financial aid system lowers that cost substantially.”

ellesley is among the colleges where the costs for wealthy students will exceed $90,000 for the first time this fall, with an estimated price tag of $92,000. But the institution points out that nearly 60% of its students will receive financial aid, and the average amount of that aid is more than $62,000, reducing their costs by two-thirds.

But many prospective students this year are facing significant delays and anxiety in finding out how much aid they will be offered by colleges due to major problems with the rollout of a new U.S. Department of Education online form that was supposed to make applying for federal aid easier. Many colleges rely on information from the form for determining their own aid offers to students.

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