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Sarah Lawrence Education-Priceless?

Stuffed animal holding credit card
A "Priceless" Education

Forbes has listed Sarah Lawrence College as the most expensive in the country and its president, Karen Lawrence, just wants to explain:

Views: Why We’re No. 1 – Inside Higher Ed

One of the problems with “most expensive” lists of any kind is that they assume a uniformity of product or service. In fact, though, Sarah Lawrence differs from other institutions, even liberal arts colleges, in fundamental ways. For example, our faculty have twice the one-on-one contact time with individual students as faculty at other prestigious institutions, including liberal arts colleges.

She doesn’t really give any specifics except stating that the average financial aid award is over $34,000. She talks more about the “handcrafted” education and the “transformative” experience.

Look, I’m all for Liberal Arts Colleges and am a big believer in their purpose. My husband and I will soon be shelling out serious money so our son can go to a private liberal arts school.

But I believe that numbers have some meaning. Let’s take a quick look at CollegeResults.org and the 25 schools in the “Similar Colleges” group for Sarah Lawrence. This data is from 2008 but I doubt the general rankings and magnitudes have changed much. Ultimately Lawrence is less than $2,000 more than five other colleges in the group. Of these six schools, Lawrence doesn’t offer the most institutional grant aid at $25,827; Trinity College is on top with $28,525. Lawrence’s four year graduation rate of 63.5% beats two of the schools but is lower than Trinity College’s 81.2% and Skidmore’s 77.9%.
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Return on College Investment via BusinessWeek

Stuffed animal reading the business section
Is the investment worth it?

Businessweek has an interesting article on the return on investment for college. The short answer is “yes,” a college degree is worth the investment. This year’s ranking is a little different because it takes into account graduation rates and actual cost of attendance given financial aid, grants, and merit aid. Of course, there are all sorts of issues with the methodology which you should be aware of such as lack of distinction between an engineering degree and an English degree and what percentage of the various types of graduates end up looking for job on the PayScale website. It probably shouldn’t be considered the last word in your college search.

But there is a cool little interactive graph called “Visualizing College ROI” that is worth playing with. I set the “Search by State” field to Texas and started looking at some of the combinations. Some schools are left off presumably because they didn’t have enough entries on the PayScale site to be included. These include St. Edwards, St. Marys, Our Lady of the Lake, Texas Lutheran, McMurry, and Austin College among others.
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FAQ: What are the different college calendar types?

Post-it note asking What are the different college calendar types?The most common calendar type for colleges is the semester system. The school year is divided into a Fall and Spring term of approximately 15 weeks each. Students usually take four or five classes each semester. The summer session may be split into shorter terms with longer hours. The vast majority of colleges and universities use the semester calendar system. Continue reading

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