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On The Money: Is Harvard Really Cheaper Than California Public Universities?

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Sending your child to Harvard could actually be less expensive than sending your son or daughter to a California public university – at least that’s the word from the Bay Area News Group.

The article created plenty of buzz on the blogoshere, including the Huffington Post.

A family of four making $130,000 a year would pay only $17,000 a year to send their child to Harvard, with financial aid, a Harvard official confirmed Monday.

By contrast, that same family would pay $24,000 a year for a student to attend a California State University campus – and $33,000 to attend a UC school – according to the article.

Prices like that could prompt some California students to look for cheaper tuitions out of state.

Akaosua Grant, a student from Foothill Community College told CBS13 at the Capitol on Monday, “I think a lot of students that are eventually going to get ready to go to college – that are seniors this year or juniors, they’re going to be looking out of state because it’s cheaper to find private institutions on the East Coast that can give scholarships.”

Many California students are angry over the cost of education, but would they truly pay $7,000 a year more to go to a Cal State school? Well consider that many California State University students commute from home and half pay no tuition at all, thanks to scholarships and grants.

Only if students lived on campus and paid full room and board would they actually pay $24,000 in college costs. With tuition currently pegged at $5,400 and living off campus, most Cal State students would in fact pay far less than the $17,000 figure quoted for Harvard.

You can use a fees calculator to figure out what your costs might be to attend CSU.

And at the University of California, half the students also pay no tuition, thanks to financial aid. But for those who do pay their own way, it could cost up to $33,000 a year in tuition, fees, room and board on many campuses, a university official said.

So does the headline that Harvard is cheaper than California public universities really pass the truth test? Well in reality, the statement is only partially true – and only for some students, especially when you consider that half the students at UC and CSU are getting a free tuition.

Harvard’s tuition is $36,300 according to Sally Donahue, the school’s director of financial aid. Adding room, board, student fees and travel expenses, the full cost of a Harvard education is $56,750 annually. Harvard is also the best endowed college in the country and very generous with financial aid, thanks to an endowment fund estimated at $32 billion.

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