Financial Aid Letters from Alabama, Ohio and Colorado

State universities are often the cheapest places to obtain a bachelor’s degree, but not always.

In fact, for a smart student who needs financial aid, expensive private schools will sometimes be more affordable.

Out here in California, a story that generated a lot of attention recently carried a variation of this headline: Believe It: Harvard Cheaper Than Cal State.  Of course, this wouldn’t come as a surprise for those of you who have spent time on my college blog, but I suspect this would come as a shock to most families.

Prices at state schools have been climbing at much higher rates than private institutions while support from state government continues to decline.  At the 23 California State University schools, for instance, state support has dropped 42% over the past decade while tuition has nearly tripled.

I am sharing this reality because I got an email today from Patty, a mom and very loyal reader of my college blog. (Thanks Patty!) Patty shared the financial aid letters that her daughter Holly has  received so far.  While the family is still awaiting the verdict from some schools, the public university in her home state of Colorado has provided the worst package.

 Sharing Financial Aid Offers

I always like to hear about families’ financial aid verdicts. Here is Patty’s note:

Colorado School of Mines

Colorado School of Mines

I read today’s post and thought I would add our 2 cents with an in-state financial aid letter that my daughter received yesterday. This is from the Colorado School of Mines, which is in-state for us. She applied early when contacted by the school and offered an essay-free and fee-free application to apply early.

Her aid letter offered her a merit scholarship of $5,000 per year for four years. Then at “Direct Unsubsidized Loan” of $5,500 and a “Direct Parent Loan” for $16,000 for this year.  CSM’s cost of attendance is listed as $29,570 with total “aid” of $26,500, again with $21,500 in loans. If she chose to attend, we are fortunate enough to be able to swing it without the loans between our savings, her job and current income.

Case Western U. and University of Alabama

Case Western Reserve

My daughter received a much better offer from Case Western Reserve University that brings her tuition per year down to $6,260 and total cost of attendance to $22,485. She also has a full tuition scholarship at University of Alabama so her COA to us would be $13,849.

Holly is still waiting for her “reaches” (Rice, Harvey Mudd), which do a better job of gift aid than most schools, and Santa Clara University, which is not that good but her stats are much higher than their 50% admitted.

She’s also waiting to hear if she will receive a Presidential Scholarship at the University of Southern California (1/2 tuition). I’ve told her that we still might not be able to afford USC at that level, so


She’s realistic as can be for her age. But we know that there are places she can go that have showed her that they want her to be there and we can all rest easy knowing she won’t be saddled with debt unless she chooses to do so.

In college applications, knowledge is certainly power, but it takes quite a bit of lead time to become savvy on what to look for.
BTW, my husband works at Lockheed-Martin and has to co-workers with student loans. One is on the 30-year repayment plan; the other has been paying loans for 12 years and appears to have many more years to go. Scary.

Bottom Line:

Obviously, Holly hasn’t gotten all her awards yet, but I think her experience to date illustrates that it’s often best for bright students to cast a wide net when applying to schools. What do you think? If you want to share, please use the comment box below this post.

Read More on The College Solution

If you’ve missed my recent financial-aid-award posts, here are they:

What’s Missing From this Financial Aid Letter

Are These Financial Aid Letters Misleading?

An End to Bad Financial Aid Award Letters

Beware of Preferential Packaging

Getting Disappointing Scholarship News

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