Most students pay less than the advertised college sticker price.

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A recent report has highlighted a troubling trend in college affordability, revealing that while the net price at private colleges has increased for higher-income students over the last decade, it remains unaffordable for low- to moderate-income families. Families with incomes below $50,000 are still expected to pay nearly $25,000 to send a student to a typical private institution, making higher education out of reach for many. This disparity in cost is creating significant barriers for less affluent students, particularly those from Black and Hispanic backgrounds, who are often deterred by the high sticker prices.

Furthermore, the rising net price at public colleges is also posing challenges for lower-income families, with the typical cost for low-income students increasing to $18,000 in 2019-20 from $12,500 in 1995-96 after adjusting for inflation. This escalating cost, combined with the perception of unaffordability, is preventing many students from even applying to college. In response to these issues, some colleges are taking steps to address the problem by lowering tuition rates to better reflect what students will actually pay, in the hopes of attracting a more diverse applicant pool.

One such example is Bridgewater College, a small liberal arts school in Virginia, which announced a significant tuition reduction of over 60 percent, lowering its published tuition from $40,300 to $15,000 starting the following fall. While this move is a step in the right direction, it underscores the urgent need for more affordable higher education options to ensure that all students have access to the opportunities that a college degree can provide. The ongoing conversation around college affordability is crucial in order to create a more equitable educational landscape for students of all backgrounds.

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