Private colleges are affordable and diverse

Private colleges are affordable and diverse

June 8, 2012

Regarding Katie Baird’s column on college costs (TNT, 6-6), I would like to thank her for pointing out that private colleges work to ensure the education their students receive remains affordable.

It is widely known that private colleges carry higher published tuition prices. What is much less widely known is that private colleges provide significant financial aid to ensure affordability.

At the 10 private nonprofit colleges that form the Independent Colleges of Washington (ICW), nine students out of 10 receive financial aid. The estimated average institutional grant in 2012-13 will be more than $15,500 per year. At our colleges, few students pay the “sticker price,” and no student pays the full cost of his/her education.

As we see in most articles and commentary discussing higher education, the outliers are the story: debt, tuition and endowments. The Ivy League stereotypes evoked in the column do not reflect our students or our colleges in Washington.

One out of four ICW college students is low-income – nearly the same proportion of low-income students served at our excellent public research institutions. About 28 percent of our students are “first generation,” meaning both parents only completed high school.

We must safeguard affordability and adequately fund public colleges, but not by painting private college students and private colleges with a broad-brush stereotype drawn from a handful of the most selective colleges, ignoring the reality at the thousand other private nonprofit liberal arts colleges across the country, in Washington state and in Pierce County.

(Boyer is president and CEO of the Independent Colleges of Washington.)

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