A Liberal Arts Education is More Accessible Than You Might Think

Are you wondering if the cost of a liberal arts education is out of reach? These schools often carry a high sticker price. However, this is different from net cost. With an understanding of the difference between the two, a liberal arts education is more accessible than you might think. 


So, you’re at the crossroads asking yourself, “is a liberal arts college right for me?”  But that’s not all, is it? Alongside the nitty-gritty of your college application to-do list, there bears the weighty influence of financial aid. College is expensive, and you have to consider, “given the conditions, what’s sensible?” 

Part of what drives your college list is finances. If you’re torn between your head and heart, don’t be fooled by the advertised price. As you explore the cost of attendance at different schools, consider that there is more than meets the eye.

Liberal arts colleges tend to offer greater financial aid

At first glance, liberal arts colleges seem more expensive. They have smaller student populations and are usually private, so they’ll generally be more expensive than a public state college. For example, look at the cost of attendance for one year at Pomona College in California. What this advertised, upfront price doesn’t take into account, however, are factors such as financial aid and scholarships. 

Another consideration is need-blind versus need-aware admissions. Need-blind doesn’t look at your financial situation to determine admissions while need-aware does. Take from this what you will, but colleges have different ways of determining and meeting a student’s full need. When it comes to the liberal arts colleges, they’re known for a philosophical commitment to ensuring students aren’t left out due to finances. 

What a college advertises as their “cost of attendance” is called the sticker price. The sticker price is just that–nothing more, nothing less. When considering finances, what you want to pay attention to is the average cost after aid. I’ll cover a side-by-side comparison below. 


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Sticker price versus average cost after aid

For the comparisons, I compiled a list of liberal arts colleges in different areas around the states. Note that for the comparisons between sticker and net price, I used each college’s Net Price Calculator, which is also accessible through the school’s financial aid website/office. Of course, your individual situations will vary.

1. Colorado College – Colorado Springs, CO

Sticker price: 83K

Average cost after aid: 13K 

2. Kenyon College – Gambier, OH

Sticker price: 84K 

Average cost after aid: 3.3K 

3. Middlebury College – Middlebury, VT

Sticker price: 81K

Average cost after aid: 3.9K

4. Occidental College – Los Angeles, CA

Sticker price: 78K 

Average cost after aid: 13.5K

5. Pomona College – Claremont, CA 

Sticker price: 82K 

Average cost after aid: 4.7K 

6. Washington and Lee University – Lexington, VA 

Sticker price: 83K 

Average cost after aid: 3K  

7. Wesleyan University – Middletown, CT 

Sticker price: 85K 

Average cost after aid: 2.75K   


Finances are important in making a college list, and can determine where you apply or go to school. So, when looking at liberal arts colleges–which usually have high sticker prices–look beneath the surface, instead, to the average cost after aid. 

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