These Colleges are Charging $90,000 Plus Next Year: Is It Worth It? 

Between 1980 and 2020, the average price of tuition, fees, and room and board for an undergraduate degree increased by 169%, according to a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. This far outpaces the average inflation rate of most goods and services during that same time period. 

This year Yale, Tufts, Boston University and Wellesley are among a few private institutions whose costs for tuition, housing and other expenses will exceed $90,000 according to the schools’ websites. Tufts’ estimates of expenses for its undergraduate programs at almost $96,000 with Wellesley charging approximately $92,000 and Yale and Boston University trailing behind, but not by much, coming in at almost $91,000 and $90,000 respectively. These figures are for the 2024-2025 school year. 

Tufts is among several schools whose ‘all in” price will be over $90,000 (Photo credit: Helene Wingens)

Inflated price tags are beyond the means of many families

These inflated college costs are far beyond the means of the vast majority of American families. And some families have two or even three kids in higher education at the same time. This causes concern among parents and high school seniors as they wait to see what aid the colleges might offer them upon acceptance.

Sadly, every year in Grown and Flown Parents we have a large number of parents telling the same story: My kid got into their first choice college and our family simply cannot afford the costs. It is truly heartbreaking for parents and teens. 

In reality many, if not most, students receive some type of financial aid and few pay the full “sticker price” posted by a university. A report from Brookings Institute explains that the amount of tuition people actually pay is the sticker price less grant-based aid which is called the “net price.” The only students who pay the published price are those who are not eligible for financial aid, mainly from higher-income families. 

Some universities are promising to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need

CNN reports that Patrick Collins, Tufts University’s executive director of media relations said that Tufts is “…proud to be one of a small number of universities committed to meeting the full demonstrated financial need of all admitted undergraduate students.”

Colin Riley, BU’s executive director of media relations for the university says that BU will “meet 100% of the demonstrated financial need for admitted, first-year students who are US citizens or permanent residents.” 

Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid for Yale, reported that he is “…proud that Yale is one of only a small handful of institutions that meet 100% of all families’ demonstrated financial need without requiring students or parents to take out loans, with consistent policies for all students regardless of citizenship…”

Wellesley University’s spokesperson, Stacey Schmeidel, told CNN that very few Wellesley students pay the total fee and added that “We are committed to making a Wellesley education affordable, and we meet the full calculated financial need for every student who enrolls at the College.”

Is college education worth the price tag?

Given this rise in tuition to an almost 6 digit price tag, the question remains is a college education worth the steep price tag? Does attending college improve your financial prospects? A new study by HEA Group, a research and consulting firm focused on college access and success compares the median earnings of former college students, 10 years after they enrolled, with basic income benchmarks. 

The analysis found that a majority of colleges exceed minimum economic measures for their graduates, like having a typical annual income that exceeds that of a high school graduate without higher education. Many schools, however, fell short of that threshold, though many of the colleges who fell short were for-profit colleges concentrating in short-term credentials rather than traditional four-year degrees.

Another consideration for families is college major. Science, technology, engineering and nursing majors typically earn significantly higher salaries than those who major in the arts or humanities. The bottom line is with costs of a college education reaching toward a hundred thousand dollars, buyer beware.

The decision is complicated and there is much to consider including: What can your family reasonably afford? How much aid can you get? Which school’s graduates have the highest median income? What is your student intending on majoring in? And, then of course there are a host of intangibles to consider.

More Great Reading:

How to Appeal a Financial Aid Award When Your Family Needs More Money

About Helene Wingens

Helene Wingens has always been passionate about painting pictures with words. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in psychology and three years later from Boston University School of Law with a Juris Doctor. In a year long clerkship for an appellate judge Helene honed her writing skills by drafting weekly appellate memoranda. She practiced law until she practically perfected it and after taking a brief twenty year hiatus to raise her three children she began writing a personal blog Her essays have been published in: Scary Mommy, Kveller, The Forward, and Grown and Flown where she is Managing Editor. You can visit Helene's website here

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