Paying sticker price, anyone?

Hi all,
My son got accepted to a private school. We will be paying full price. From reading, people keep saying that you rarely pay sticker price.
we are working class (savers). It seems that our financial situation is pretty common from looking around. I’m just puzzled why people keep saying it’s rare to pay sticker price.

I wonder if anyone here can share if you are paying (have paid) sticker price?

I am in the same situation, although I have not committed anywhere yet. At schools like Northeastern, Carnegie Mellon and Ivys, I am full price. My parents are also working class savers and I will be first-gen. Nevertheless, I would have to take on debt of my own and will likely choose merit scholarships at Georgia Tech over any ivy acceptances or Northeastern offer. I think that the full price option is common, however may people choose public or merit offers over the full sticker price. Good luck to your son, I’m sure it is an amazing school and program!

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Did you not fill out the fafsa or something? Not sure how a school could justify a working class family paying the full price. Paying full price is not common. If it was, then the average price for a school would be closer to the sticker price.


My kids rely on merit if they want to go anywhere besides in state public. They apply to less competitive schools and get merit, bringing costs down to in state. If it’s going to be more than $35,000 a year, it’s a no. My daughter got into honors at Villanova and ended up in honors at UD.


You can find the percent getting grants/scholarships (i.e., not paying full price) here: College Navigator - National Center for Education Statistics. Look up the college and then check the Financial Aid tab for the percent getting grants/scholarships.

At highly selective schools that offer mostly need-based aid, 40%-60% tend to pay full price. At schools that offer lots of small merit discounts, few pay full price.


I agree with this based on experience, at least the first part. NESCAC schools that I am most familiar with that offer no merit aid typically have 50% +/- of the students paying full price. So no, at least at these schools, it’s not true that students “rarely pay full price.”


What’s rare are the number of families on this board who self-identify as working class who pay sticker price. So many people identify as middle-class that I think this may be a matter of semantics.


Doesn’t working class usually mean someone working blue collar or service jobs? I really don’t know how a private school could make them pay full price.

I dunno. I keep thinking of the guy who did my kitchen renovation. I’m pretty sure he could afford full sticker price!


I guess I’m just confused because I’ve received a decent amount of need based money at a few schools and I’m in a very comfortable living situation. Maybe I just lucked out or something


We had a plan to fund undergrad school for our kids. Neither qualified for need based aid at all. One got a decent merit award, and the other got a teeny merit award (every penny counts).

We paid the remainder of their undergrad costs…so I guess we were mostly a full pay family for two kids…both at expensive private colleges.

But like I said, we had a plan for paying the bills. We fully expected not to qualify for need based aid.

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Federal loans are financial aid, so technically, most everyone who completes a FAFSA qualifies for financial aid. In that case, they don’t have to pay sticker price. But they kind of do …

Here’s the thing: I was a financial aid director, and I refused to tell anyone that students don’t pay sticker price. It’s a way to spin it, but it’s not truthful. There are always people paying sticker price. If you make it seem like they won’t have to, it’s a problem, IMO. The idea is that you get them hooked on wanting to come, right?

Average is average. It means nothing to the individual. If you didn’t get need based aid, it means you are far better off than the vast majority of families. While it may seem like it’s unfair that you won’t get need based aid because you saved … the flip side is that you saved, and you can pay for college. Maybe not EVERY college, but certainly somewhere. That is an amazing thing, and you should be proud of that fact.

But getting some merit aid is always worth trying for!


We expect to be full pay given all the EFC calculators at the schools S21 applied to this year. There are a couple schools on his list that he may receive some merit but we aren’t assuming that.

If S gets shut out from all of the OOS schools he applied to (all but one are competitive admissions), then he will likely attend our state flagship. (We have Florida Prepaid that will cover all of his tuition costs for 4 years, and S will also have Bright Futures, which will just about cover his housing. I’m not sure if the exact amounts yet.)

We don’t consider ourselves that wealthy but apparently colleges do. We have saved $$ specifically targeted to be used for our 2 kids since they were born.


I think a lot of people self-identify as middle class but according to their income, they would be considered upper-middle class; therefore at some schools they would be expected to pay full tuition.

The thing that is unfortunate about basing financial aid on income is that it fails to see the whole picture. The parents may have just recently bumped up an income level (within the past couple of years) and while it looks like they make a lot, they might not have had the chance to save a lot yet due to that reason. They might have just finished paying off Grad school which enabled them to move up to the higher income level.

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However, wouldn’t such parents be likely to be still spending at the lower level based on their old lower income (and therefore have lots of extra money available), rather than having quickly ratcheted up their spending to consume all of their new higher income?


In our case, we live in one of the highest COL areas, so while our income might put us as upper middle class based on the rest of the country, it is really middle class here.


This is a similar situation for my family. Income increase only in recent 2 years and now down again (thanks to covid) we do not qualify for aid and never had the opportunity to save to be full price or close to full price payers. Very difficult to see overall picture of finances.

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Full pay parent here. Received great merit offers from an out of state flagship and an in-state private but neither actually brought costs down to our in-state flagship, which is a great school that didn’t provide any merit. We chose the in-state flagship as that was his first choice anyways.


We paid full price for top five private university. I do regret now not to have my DD to take federal student loan when I hear about loan forgiveness program. We are also savers and didn’t qualify for financial aid based on our savings and not based on our income.

Not necessarily. What if they were or are paying off grad school, law school, or med school loans? Or what if one parent was in grad school and not working and then recently rejoined the workforce?