A few weeks ago I was invited to give a speech on Myths, Assumptions, and Attitudes in education. It wasn’t a viewpoint I was accustomed to examining. Initially I found myself struggling with the topic, but after a bit I realized that our educational climate is packed with stubborn misconceptions that are incorrect yet refuse to die. Once such misconception is that America’s Ivy League schools are too expensive for the average student to afford.
Every year, I’ll have a conversation with a talented high school senior who will mention that they didn’t consider applying to a college such as Harvard or Yale because their family couldn’t afford the tuition. For whatever reason, the myth persists that Ivy League schools are solely for the rich. After all, Harvard College’s tuition is over $30,000, and the total cost after room, board, and miscellaneous fees is close to $46,000. How could a middle-class family afford that?
The truth of Ivy League affordability, however, is quite different, and the news keeps getting better. In December of 2007, Harvard revealed a new plan to increase financial assistance to undergraduates by 43%. Students from families who earn less than $60,000 will pay nothing. Even at a family-income level of $180,000, families will only be asked to contribute 10% of their income. The end result is that the cost of Harvard is comparable to in-state tuition at a public university. Yale announced a similar plan this month. Other Ivy League schools have similar plans in place.
The reality is that—conversely—an Ivy League school is a fantastic place to apply if you come from a family of limited means. In many cases, you’re going to get a better financial support package than you would from a public institution.
You’re also likely to graduate with less debt, as Ivy League schools are moving to eliminate student loan calculations in financial aid packages. Even now, Ivy League students graduate with significantly less debt than their counterparts who have attended other institutions. The average debt for a senior graduating from Harvard has dropped from $16,000 to $6,400, roughly one-third of the national average. With this new policy in place, that number will fall closer to zero.
As an aside, the ramifications of this reduced student debt can only help shatter another Ivy League myth that incorrectly assumes Ivy League graduates are focused solely on personal economic gain, and pursue career paths of the rich and glamorous. With much less debt, graduates from America’s prestigious institutions will be much freer to pursue altruistic careers instead of feeling pressure to earn money to pay off their alma mater.
Bottom line: It’s worth a shot to apply to an Ivy League school if you’ve got the marks and the achievements to possibly get accepted. Not applying is the same as getting refused, so go for it. Change your life.
Related reading: Recent Economist Article
Image Credit: blisspix
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