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Paying for College

Colleges Slash Sticker Prices

But lower published prices may not save you money.

The cost of attending college usually moves in one direction: up, and often quickly. Over the past decade, the published cost of tuition and fees has increased 27% at private not-for-profit four-year colleges and 41% for in-state students at four-year public colleges. But a growing number of colleges have been reversing the trend by slashing their sticker prices.

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More than three dozen mostly small and midsize private colleges have announced tuition cuts since 2011. This fall, Drew University announced that it would reduce the cost of tuition for the 2018–19 academic year by 20%, and Birmingham-Southern College cut its sticker price by more than 50%. Look for more schools to announce similar price cuts as states, such as New York, pursue programs to make public college tuition-free for in-state students, says David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Many schools hope the change will make them appear more affordable and will attract more applicants.

But a cut in tuition or other published costs may not save you much money. Often, the reduced sticker prices are closer to what many students were already paying after factoring in financial aid. The main beneficiaries will be families that qualify for little or no aid.

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