Is tuition cost the most important factor in choosing a college or university?
No, says Michael DeVasher, associate vice president for enrollment management at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
“Affordability obviously is an issue,” DeVasher says, but adds the most important factor in choosing a college or university is not tuition. “It’s fit.” He stresses the importance of first making sure that a college is the right place for you, then taking cost into consideration and looking at financial options.
DeVasher offers these suggestions:
- Have a heart-to-heart talk with family members about how much is available to pay for college. “Often families haven’t had a deep conversation about how much a family is willing to take on,” he says. “It doesn’t so much matter that the number is the same, but that you are in the same ballpark.”
- Make an appointment with the college’s financial aid office. If your heart is set on a college but you think your family can’t afford it, “be forthright and honest about your situation,” says DeVasher. “A meaningful conversation is going to start with the student having filled out the FAFSA. That’s the number one thing. The financial aid officers are going to be responsible for figuring out what’s available.” For example, he points out that “Rose-Hulman has a very generous grant program that we offer in addition to state and federal grants.”
- Look at the overall total cost—not just tuition. Room and board, fees, books and required technology can add up, but are also within your control, to some extent. Look for ways to save money on everyday expenses. “There are lower cost options for non-tuition items,” says DeVasher.
- Don’t underestimate the power of scholarships. “Be constantly vigilant,” he says. Talk to your high school counselor, your local chamber of commerce, and faith-based or community organizations. Search college scholarships online. Every year available scholarship dollars go unclaimed. At scholarships.com, you can search by location and area of interest.
- “The most expensive college education is the one you don’t finish,” says DeVasher. “That’s something I think families and students really need to take to heart.”