Hurry! Limited time offer! Private US colleges are offering the biggest discounts in decades

If only the diplomas were buy-one-get-one-free.
If only the diplomas were buy-one-get-one-free.
Image: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
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A degree from a private US university may be more expensive than membership to the president’s opulent Mar-a-Lago resort these days, but here’s the good news on the former: You have a better chance than ever of getting a Donald-worthy deal.

The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), a membership organization representing 2,100 US colleges and universities, released a report Monday showing that private school tuition is being discounted at the highest rates since the organization began collecting data a decade ago. According to NACUBO’s survey of 411 private institutions, schools in the latest academic year offered average tuition discounts of 49.1% and 44.2% for freshmen and all undergraduates, respectively, through grants, fellowships, and scholarships.

That means that for every dollar in gross tuition revenue from students, private schools are putting almost half back into grant-based financial aid.

As schools get pricier across the board, many recognize the need to entice students with lowered costs—to the point where “these financial aid expenditures are contributing to a financial strain for some institutions,” said NABUCO research and policy analysis director Ken Redd in a statement. Administrators are split: 44% of schools’ chief business officers say they expect the discounts to be “sustainable” for their institutions in the long term, while 41% say they don’t.

On students’ and families’ side of things, the discounts are certainly helpful. The report notes that roughly 40% of all private school aid last year was strictly need-based; the other 60% was offered to students based on a combination of financial need and achievement in academics and other activities.

According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees at a US private university in the 2016-17 school year was $33,480.