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.

There’s no part of parenting more important than setting your kid up for successful college and career life.

For clear, step-by-step help getting your kids through college debt-free, don’t rely on a loose collection of blog posts. You’ll miss hundreds of details that way. Instead, get your copy of my book:

You can “Look Inside” the book on Amazon for free by going to:

(Tell your friends.)

You can see the “Top 9 Questions Parents Are Asking Me About LAUNCH,” here.

Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1-3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.

And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it – especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.

Do you have friends who are parenting recent high school graduates?

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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.

Who is Jeannie Burlowski?

Jeannie is a full time author, academic strategist, and speaker. Her writing and speaking help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, NerdWallet, and US News and World Report.

Jeannie also helps students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school at her website You can follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski.