Paying for College

Free Ride Near Home or Pricey Elite Eastern School?

Question: My son has the opportunity to attend a local state university for free (tuition, room, board and books) for four years based on his being named a National Merit Commended Scholar. Of course, he scoffs at the notion of going to school so close to home, and instead has his heart set on attending a prestigious East Coast university. We are a family of very limited financial means, and I don’t want him to graduate from undergraduate college with a lot of student debt because he plans to go on to med school. We don’t know yet what a possible financial aid package to the East Coast school may look like, but I think $1 in student loans is $1 too much. What would you advise?

This question cannot be answered without a resounding (but unsatisfying) “it depends.”

Have you tried the online Net Price Calculators for your son’s top-choice East Coast schools? Although I always take NPC results with a block of salt, they can be a good starting point if you want to get at least a ballpark sense of what your family contribution is likely to be.

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