Best Value Colleges? Get More for your Tuition Assistance Dollar {Part 1}

I recently returned from the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas. Boy, I love that city not because I'm a big gambler (I'm not), but because you can learn a great deal about financial decision making and human behavior just by looking around. Where else in the world can you see someone playing hundred-dollar hands of blackjack while eating a $4.99 Prime Rib they used a coupon to buy? Or see someone paralyzed over which slot machine to play, clutching a five-dollar bill while sipping top-shelf liquor?

Bargain...or Best Value College?

I'm fascinated by how some people equate cost to quality in some areas of their lives, but chase after bargains in others. Trust me, I'm not judging. As a married father of four, with mortgage and car payments of my own, I know a little something about the challenges of financial prioritization. What I've found ironic is that the cost/value/benefit debate gets taken to a whole new level when we talk about education. People spend money on cars, save money on groceries, and usually fall somewhere in between on clothes. But what is the value of the dollar when deciding which college to attend?

The "B" Word: Bargain

Over the summer, the US Department of Education updated their school-by-school comparison chart of tuition and fees for every higher ed institution in the country. With so much buzz around the continuing rise in cost of education, I love that there's some transparency around the "price" of individual schools. Higher ed often gets painted with such a broad stroke that people don't realize there are exceptions to every rule and not all programs (and institutions) are priced the same way. In general, is higher education expensive? Yes. But that doesn't mean you can't find a bargain. Uh oh!I just ruffled some feather by saying the "B" word!bargain. Did the Senior Director of Academic Services at EdAssist really just position education as a commodity? Are there REALLY bargains available when shopping for colleges and universities?

Step 1: Understand the True Cost of Higher Ed

Let me position this a little differently, so as to not anger the Ghosts of Academia Past.  I'm not comparing colleges and universities to groceries, clothes, or cars. I'm not saying that you should choose a school based on the lowest or highest price. And I am certainly not saying that the education you receive at every single school is identical outside of tuition fees. But I do believe that, just like any good investor, you need to do your research before making a "purchase" to find the best value college. Price can be one of the factors, but it's important to dive a little deeper to see what you're receiving for the dollars you spend. But how exactly can you discern value from price? Check back next week when I offer specific tips on shopping for a school.    
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About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands

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