Oct 23, 2010

5 Ways to Avoid Tuition Creep

Hefty tuition hikes at Virginia public institutions together with the lifting of Maryland’s 3-year tuition freeze makes parents wonder if anything can be done to avoid annual tuition creep. Frankly, the entire system looks a little scary, as college tuition increases continue to outpace the cost of living.

If you’re concerned that somewhere down the line college might just become too expensive, here are five ways to guard against creeping tuition:

1. Tuition Guarantees: According to US News & World Report (USNWR), all public universities in Illinois and at least nine private colleges guarantee freshmen that their tuition will not be raised. While other costs such as room and board are bound to increase, tuition at these institutions is guaranteed not to go up—usually for four years only. Locally, George Washington University has one such guarantee for five years that has proven to be an effective recruitment tool for prospective students.

2. Lock-In Tuition: A few colleges offer students the option of paying a fee over the standard freshman year tuition to lock-in that tuition price for four years. USNWR lists several universities, including Baylor and Niagara, as well as all Oklahoma public universities in this category. Again, colleges can and usually do increase other fees and charges.

3. Up-front Payment: For those wealthy enough to afford one very large lump sum payment, several colleges allow for a single up-front payment of all four years at the freshman-year rate. Among the schools making this offer are Vanderbilt University and Lynchburg College in Virginia.

4. “Prepaid” College Savings: Parents looking down the road at college tuition bills can invest in one of several “prepaid” college savings plans. Local options include the Maryland Prepaid College Trust, which also permits DC families to invest, and the Virginia Prepaid Education Program, which covers soldiers stationed in Virginia.

5. Go Tuition Free: In addition to the service academies, several schools including Cooper Union, Berea, College of the Ozarks, Curtis Institute of Music, Webb Institute, Deep Springs, and Alice Lloyd College are tuition-free. You may also find colleges that become tuition-free once certain qualifications are met. For example, Texas Women’s University offers a Presidential Scholarship covering full tuition to any valedictorian or salutatorian at an accredited high school. Drew University offers free tuition to qualified veterans, and a handful of colleges offer full rides to National Merit Scholarship finalists. Very low-income students may also find tuition completely covered at some schools, although these tend to be among the wealthier or more selective like Harvard, Princeton, Duke, or Penn.

Families still in the college shopping phase should not hesitate to ask admissions representatives how much they expect tuition to rise over the next four years. It might take a crystal ball to get an exact answer, but at least you open the door to exploring some of the options listed above.

No comments:

Post a Comment