Public universities in California may have been dethroned as being cheaper than private schools for middle-income students. According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, schools like Harvard and Princeton provide a cheaper alternative to schools like San Jose State and University of California, Berkeley.
Private schools are generally even cheaper than Cal State Fullerton. To go to Harvard, it costs $4,000 for a family with an annual income of $30,000. At CSUF, it costs $16,331 for a full-time student.
According to the Bay Area News Group, a family of four making $130,000 a year would have to pay $24,000 for tuition, room, board and other expenses to send one child to a CSU. Harvard costs $36,000, but financial aid makes it the cheaper option.
Financial aid drops Harvard tuition costs down to $17,000 a year, under San Jose State’s $23,557 and even under the $19,500 it costs to go to UC Berkeley. While Princeton may be slightly more expensive ($19,830) than UC Berkeley, it is still considerably cheaper than San Jose State.
Private schools used to be considered more expensive than public, but that trend has changed for a couple of reasons.
According to the Social Security Administration’s website, in order for a college student under the age of 22 to receive Supplemental Security Income, the maximum he or she can earn annually is $6,600. However, Harvard’s maximum limit for receiving aid is much higher.
“The program requires no contribution from families with incomes below $65,000 and asks on average no more than 10 percent of income from families with annual incomes up to $150,000 and typical assets, and does not require students to take out loans,” said Jeff Neal, senior communications officer at Harvard Public Affairs and Communications.
Harvard’s financial aid program provides assistance to a majority of students.
“More than 70 percent of students receive some sort of financial aid,” Neal said. “More than 60 percent receive aid directly from Harvard.”
Public schools generally receive money from state and federal governments, though sometimes they receive private donations. Private schools, however, receive most of their money through private donations.
“Private schools get donations from alumni and others and the top private schools have very large endowments,” said Matt Krupnick, a reporter at Bay Area News Group. “They have more money to spend than public schools do because of the donations.”
On the other hand, public schools are beginning to do more to help lower income students.
Still, according to Bay Area News Group, UC schools are trying to help families of students making less than $80,000 per year. However, they are only covering tuition, not room and board.
“Low-income students already get need-based financial aid, and so I think the trend is more geared to middle-income students,” Krupnick said.
California State Universities, on the other hand, are close to becoming too expensive for middle-income students, though CSUs are a better value compared to private schools, said Rhonda Johnson, director of Cal State East Bay Financial Aid.
“Although I am often quoted as saying we are close to pricing out middle-income students, the CSU and UC state college systems are still a relatively good value when compared to Princeton and other private universities,” said Johnson.
Johnson said she does agree that financial aid from private universities may be higher, however.
“It is true that students from families with identical financial means may receive a higher financial aid offer from Princeton than from a California State University,” she said.
The cost of tuition with room and board can be higher for private schools.
“Beginning this fall, the estimated cost to attend Princeton, including tuition and room and board, is $54,700 versus approximately $24,100 at a Cal State University,” said Johnson.
However, that’s for families making $250,000 a year, according to Bay Area News Group.
Furthermore, Johnson disagrees with the assessment that private schools are inherently better than public schools.
“I think we must realize that universities like Princeton, Stanford and Harvard are highly competitive,” said Johnson. “And the average California public college applicant won’t gain admission to one of these universities. In addition, many private universities have large endowments and other private funding sources unavailable at public colleges.”