Yesterday I wrote about college coop programs that link students up with jobs while they are still students. Here is the post:
Do You Need a Coop Program To Get a Job?
What I am far more interested in sharing is what these and other private universities, many of which are located on the East Coast, cost. I’m going to use Drexel as an example because my blog reader had asked about that school that’s located in Philadelphia.
I’d argue that Drexel is an example of a high-cost, high-debt university. You can learn about this phenomenon in an excellent article entitled, The Prestige Racket, that Daniel Luzer wrote in the Washington Monthly a few months ago. Luzer focused on George Washington University in the article, but he mentioned American University and New York University as examples of this phenomenon. I’d toss Drexel and Northeastern, another coop school, into this unenviable category.
Why These Schools Are So Expensive
Schools like Drexel, GWU, NYU and others have jacked up the price of their schools while not providing enough financial aid for many of its students. One reason why they can do this is because they are located in East Coast cities. Students across the country want to go to school in places like Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York City.
The vast majority of teenagers who want to attend schools in big cities aren’t going to have the academic profile to get into the most elite schools with urban zip codes such as University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and Harvard, but they can get into schools like Drexel and NYU. If NYU was in the Ozarks it couldn’t get away with charging a high tuition, while giving low financial assistance.
These schools can also get away with being expensive because US News & World Report’s college rankings doesn’t punish them for being unaffordable. In fact, the magazine’s rankings methodology perversely rewards colleges for spending money, but they don’t bestow demerits for being unaffordable. I would urge you to read the blog post that I wrote about it here:
When looking at the the sort of financial aid statistics that are commonly available on the Internet for individual schools, I had a hard time finding them for Drexel. One stat that I always like to look at is the average indebtedness at graduation for students at a particular school. To find that I called up Drexel’s profile on the College Board and then I clicked its Cost & Financial Aid link. Drexel declined to divulge this figure, which can be a sign that the school is not generous.
Schools with lower debt levels are typically going to be eager to share this figure. Across the country, the average student graduates from colleges with $23,000 in student loans. Beyond this figure, Drexel also didn’t divulge any statistics about financial aid on the College Board site.
Next I headed over to the federal College Navigator, which is the federal US Department of Education massive database of statistics on colleges and universities. I had better luck there. On Drexel’s profile, I found the typical costs for Drexel students of different income levels:
Drexel University’s Average Net Price
- $0-$30,000 $33,888
- $30,001 – $48,000 $34,694
- $48,001 – $75,000 $37,532
- $75,001 – $110,000 $36,731
- $110,001 and up $37,574
What’s stunning about the above figures is that poor and middle-class students pay close to the same price as affluent families! This is clearly an unaffordable school for many students.
To get a comparison, I’m sharing the federal statistics for the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution, which is also in Philadelphia. Penn has a policy of meeting the full financial need of its students.
University of Pennsylvania’s Average Net Price
- $0-$30,000 $6,704
- $30,001 – $48,000 $8,505
- $48,001 – $75,000 $15,139
- $75,001 – $110,000 $21,312
- $110,001 and up $39,684
Obviously, Penn’s financial aid packages are far superior to Drexel’s.
If your child is eager to attend an expensive East Coast school that offers poor financial assistance be prepared for the financial shock. And please walk away if you can’t afford it!
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch. Follow her on Twitter.