David Leonhardt in the New York Times:
The cost of college is a notoriously complex subject. The list price at many private colleges, including tuition, fees, room and board, has reached the bewildering sum of $70,000 a year. But the real price, taking into account financial aid, is often vastly lower.
How much lower? We’re here to help answer that question.
More than 30 top colleges now participate in a simple online calculator that provides cost estimates to families. (And those 30 typically charge similar prices to other selective colleges.) The New York Times has analyzed the data from the calculator and is publishing the results here. It’s a snapshot of what college really costs.
Our central finding is that top colleges are more affordable than many people realize – not only for poor students but also for those from the middle-class.
Typical lower-income students – from a family earning $50,000 or less, for example – face an annual bill of $6,000. Students can often cover that cost through part-time work and a small annual loan, without their parents having to pay additional money.
Middle-class families pay a higher price, but nothing like the list price.