Liberal arts colleges have a great deal to offer, like small class sizes, great teaching, personal attention, a strong sense of community. But with a yearly price tag of anywhere between $25,000 and $45,000, is a liberal arts college education something beyond your reach?
Maybe. But maybe not. Here’s the secret many students don’t know about liberal arts colleges: many of them offer very generous financial aid packages. These come in the form of both needs-based and merit-based scholarships, both of which are awarded in addition to student loans, work study, outside scholarships, and other forms of outside financial aid. In many cases, the price of a liberal arts college can actually be comparable or even cheaper to the price of a state school!
Don’t believe me? Here’s an example: Allegheny College, a terrific liberal arts college located in Meadville, Pennsylvania. Tuition, room, board, and fees run students a whopping $40,000 a year. Eek! However, very few students actually pay that much to attend Allegheny. About a third of all students receive a merit-based scholarship of $12,500 a year. In addition, the average need-based award for freshmen is about $18,000 a year. So if a student is eligible for the merit-based scholarship and the average need based one, suddenly Allegheny College costs less than $10,000 a year. Not cheap, but the student can make up some of the rest of that with loans and other kinds of financial aid.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone who attends Allegheny—and you may not get such a sweet deal at the liberal arts college of your choice. But if you’re interested in this type of school, don’t rule it out—especially if you’re a strong student and/or a student with a good deal of financial need. Apply to a number of small colleges, and take the time to visit them, as these schools often want to meet with you to see if you’re a good fit. When those fat envelopes come in the mail, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by the price tag.