42% Off ! That’s the average percentage discount reaped by students attending a private college this year!  I know that seems shocking — especially if you’re just tuning into my blog — but as we’ve been saying, colleges today routinely and intentionally discount their ‘published prices’ to lure students to their campus.  It is, as the Washington Post reported today, creating a ‘polite bidding war’ for desirable students, and considered a ‘common post-recession scenario.’ 

Private institutions today spend on average $2,060 per student on ‘aid’ to non-need based families.   Public colleges are ‘playing’ too – they spent a reported $410 per student on aid ‘beyond need in 2010’.  Now you know why it’s so hard to get into UF if you’re in-state.  The net revenue they earn per out-of-state student is MUCH higher, even with these inducements.

I work with these numbers and scenarios everyday, but I can certainly appreciate how to many, this sounds absurd – Colleges do not ‘roll back’ prices.  So I wanted you to see for yourself – simply google ‘Common Data Set (Your Top Choice U)’  and scroll down to the Financial Aid Section.  Then do the same for a few other schools you like or are on your preliminary college list and compare the results.  This, by the way, is data that all of the schools are required to report — and it is information that is used by the College Board as well as by me to compare colleges and compile reports for our clients. 

It’s a common misconception that you can wait until you know where your child is going to school to apply for financial aid and other scholarships.  Today the inverse is true!  You CANNOT decide where to APPLY until you understand the amount of financial aid and other ‘beyond need’ inducements offered by each of the schools you are considering.  The difference in ‘discounting strategies’ among otherwise similar schools is often substantial and should be the chief driver of your child’s admissions strategy. 

The college game is different now.  Learn the new rules, you win.  Stay in the dark and you could sacrifice thousands of dollars in scholarships and grants at great schools that you would have otherwise qualified for.   Even if you could afford to pay full price, why in the world would you want to?

I’m conducting one workshop this month where I’ll break down all of this and show you other techniques and strategies that you need to know about applying to, getting into and most importantly, making a great college affordable in these times. The class is free and open to the public with no strings attached.  If you have a student that you would like to send to college someday, I urge you to attend!  If you don’t, but know someone who does, please forward this to them – they’ll thank you for it!

Peter

p.s. I’d love to hear from you and certainly welcome your feedback. Check out and like my Facebook page – it’s updated daily with tips and notices of upcoming deadlines and resources.  Post a comment or question, and I’ll be sure to respond!

One final note:  It’s not too late (yet) to get a discount on our 4th Annual ‘Thick Envelope’ College Admissions and Application Bootcamp.  This program is exclusively for Rising Seniors and will review — in depth — every part of the college admissions and application process.  Students who attend the July program will be able to complete their college applications BEFORE school starts next Fall.  To learn more, visit www.Thick-Envelope.com.

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