Not a Bargain — Why Some Parents Steer Their Kids Away From State Universities

Community colleges tend to be a GREAT bargain for students.  (Do you wonder what gives me the credential to say that?  Click here.)  But what about 4-year state universities? Are they smart choices for students who want to keep college costs low?  At first glance the 4-year state university’s sticker price looks appealing enough. But is it really a good deal?

Here’s the big question to ask:

What is this state university’s four-year graduation rate?

If it’s nearly impossible to get through this college in four years, that’s deeply concerning.  Why?  Because financial aid doesn’t stretch to cover years five and six.  Too often, years five and six get paid for by expensive private loans and credit card debt.  Plus, of course, going to college for six years is likely to cost a student two years of full time income. 

Yikes.  Not a bargain at all.

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself.

Balancing The Account

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself:

Before deciding that any college is a bargain choice, check its 4-year graduation rate by going to

Enter the university’s name in the search bar, click “search,” and you’ll instantly reach a vast amount of interesting information about that school.  Scroll over to “OUTCOMES.”  See the school’s “freshman satisfaction rate” and “4-year graduation rate”?  If these numbers are low, proceed with caution.

Here are some colleges that might be better bargains.

When working with your son or daughter to create a list of colleges to apply to, strongly consider some private colleges that do not require the CSS/Profile financial aid form.

(If you’re moving along on the journey to debt free college by regularly clicking on your kid’s age in the “WHAT TO DO WHEN” section at, you’ll completely understand why I say this.)

Here’s the upshot.  If your child attends a private college, he or she may finish faster and pay less for the privilege.

To see my post warning even highly paid professionals away from student loan debt, click here.

“How do I determine whether a college my child is considering requires the CSS/Profile financial aid form?”

For a list of U.S. colleges and universities that do require the CSS/Profile financial aid form, click here.

Who is Jeannie Burlowski?

 Jeannie Burlowski is a a full-time consultant, author, and conference speaker.  She helps parents set their kids up to graduate college debt free and move directly into careers they excel at and love.  You can find Jeannie’s free help for parents in the “WHAT TO DO WHEN” section at  Follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski.

“We only got around to doing a fraction of what Jeannie tells people to do in the free help on her website, and we saved well over $50,000 on college costs. Our daughter earned a four year degree from an excellent private university at age 20, and she’s now in California happily working her dream job at Disney. Get to one of Jeannie’s live classes if you can. Buy a plane ticket if you have to!”  — Liz and Tim Weatherhead, parents, Bloomington, MN

What about you? If you’re a parent, a student, or a staff member at a public or private college, please share your thoughts on this post below.  Or LIKE Jeannie Burlowski Author on Facebook and let’s talk about it there.