Higher education in Washington State: Public vs. Private School Affordability

Husky picture- creative commons

Photo credit: Creative Commons

Due to the volatility of the U.S. economy  in recent years and a wave of  economic hardships for the average American family, paying for college has become an even bigger struggle than ever before.

When students begin the highly anticipated college search, more often than not, long-term affordability is a make or break factor in the final college decision.

There is often a great stigma around private colleges and universities around the country, simply because they are known to cost significantly more than state schools.

Borrowing money is also a relevant issue because it is a decision that affects students and families across the board.

Data from College Scorecard at Whitehouse.gov indicates that at the University of Washington, “Families typically borrow $15,458 in Federal loans for a student’s undergraduate study.”

While this seems like a lot of money to borrow for a public university, this averages out to only about $177.89/month depending on the payment plan (Whitehouse.gov).

So how does this compare to a private school like PLU? “Families typically borrow $24,000 in Federal loans for a student’s undergraduate study. The Federal loan payment over 10 years for this amount is approximately $276.19 per month” (Whitehouse.gov).

Based on this data it often seems like smaller private schools can’t begin to compete with public schools due to the overwhelming majority of public schools that have lower costs.

And while admittedly cost is only one component of the college search, it carries a lot of weight among students and families. When digging into the debate about the affordability of public vs. private universities in Washington state, it is important to take a look  at the statistics regarding loan repayment.

While many families often rely on loans to send their children to college, the economic hardships of recent years have created even more strain on students trying to pay back daunting college loans.  So what do recent economic trends tell us about loan payments after graduation?

“2.9 percent of PLU students defaulted on Federal Student Loans within three years of entering repayment” (Whitehouse.gov). Compared to the national average, PLU graduates are faring quite well. The national average for defaulting on Federal loans is 13.4% according to data from Whitehouse.gov.

When it comes to defaulting on Federal Loans, PLU comes out ahead of UW as well. 3.1% of UW graduates defaulted on loans within three years of repayment (Whitehouse.gov).

Although these results cannot be generalized nation-wide, there is something to be said for their validity and relevance. While there is often a stigma around the steep prices of private universities, this data illustrates how it is necessary to look beyond society’s assumptions and take a closer look at the numbers when weighing a college decision.



Categories: Politics, Student Life

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