Gonzaga – $41,333

Catholic University of America – $41,800

University of Portland –  $41,844

Santa Clara – $47,112

Georgetown – $49,968

Kids, you may now help your parents off the floor. Tell them only a third of students pay these annual tuition sticker prices.

“The full price of tuition should never be a deterrent,” says Lesley Klecan, college counselor at St. Mary School in Medford.

U.P., for example, offers a merit-based Presidential scholarship ($23,000 a year) and an Oregon Success Award ($2,000 a year) to make tuition comparable to University of Oregon’s. The University of San Diego will give $2,000 just because you graduated from a Catholic high school. At Carroll College, a Catholic school in Helena, Montana, the average annual financial aid package is about $25,000 — over half the total cost of attendance.

It all adds up; last year at Marist in Eugene 2016 graduates received a total of $11.4 million in scholarships and institutional grants.

Because of generous aid, and Catholic values, private and Catholic colleges are still a draw for students from Catholic high schools. For example, about a third of graduates from Marist will attend a private school. For about 1 in 9, it’s a Catholic institution.

There are three common ways to make the tuition cost go down: scholarships, need-based grants and loan, and work. Before exploring those, the first thing every college family needs to do is fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Available starting each October at fafsa.ed.gov, the form asks about income and circumstances. It’s a 20-minute job. Colleges require it before they offer a financial aid package.



The best way to pay for college is with someone else’s money. That may sound crass, but there are hundreds of organizations and businesses that are excited to help you pay for school.  

On its website, the college you hope to attend likely will have a scholarship section with links to applications. Be ready to write essays. If you compose one, keep it handy because chances are another scholarship application will ask for something similar.

The school will have in-house scholarships, including some you are considered for automatically based on grade point average. It pays, literally, to do well in high school.

“In order to be a good candidate for merit aid, a student should be at the upper end of the school's profile,” says Klecan. “If the average GPA at the school is 3.0 and you have a 3.4, there is a good chance that you will receive merit aid. However, if the school's average entering GPA is a 3.8 and you have a 3.4 you are less likely to receive merit aid. Of course, the full picture of the student is taken into consideration for any merit aid.”

Klecan says that Catholic colleges have greater leeway than state schools in how they allocate funds. Instead of going strictly by numbers, Catholic institutions can look at the student more holistically. Many colleges have scholarships specifically for service or leadership.

In addition to the scholarships linked to schools, hundreds of other groups like Rotary clubs and law firms offer scholarships of $1,000 to $5,000 or more. Even if you land just one and spend 10 hours or so applying, that’s a payout of at least $100 per hour.

Most states have websites that are clearing houses of legitimate scholarships. In Oregon, it’s app.oregonstudentaid.gov — the scholarship portal tended by the Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion. If you have decided on a school in, say, Colorado, it’s www.collegeincolorado.org.

Several national websites are reputable and have links to hundreds of opportunities. These include fastweb.com and scholarships.com. 

All the websites contain targeted scholarships, like those for descendants of members of the communication workers’ union. Use filters, but be ready to slog through lists.  

Students should check with their colleges about how external scholarships may impact their financial aid packages.


Need-based grants and loans

Court Wirth, college counselor at Marist, says it’s good to be realistic. Take grades and income into account when choosing where to apply. College websites are required to have a calculator to roughly determine how much it will cost to attend each year, including housing and books.  

“Middle class families worry they won’t qualify for aid,” says Wirth. He suggests always filling out a FAFSA anyway, since shifting circumstances might make a difference.

Using FAFSA information, colleges look at what your family realistically can pay. In some cases, students qualify for need-based grants, which don’t need to be paid back. Some highly selective schools offer grants for all the demonstrated need.

More often, students will get a package including loans with federal money — all of which needs to be paid back after graduation.   

“Loans are an important part of the equation,” says Wirth. “Loans are not inherently bad.

The nightmare stories you hear are when families take out unreasonable amounts.”



Colleges can offer jobs to students who demonstrate financial need. The work is part time, designed to fit around study and is typically in a dining hall or library.

“We emphasize summertime to work that can be full time,” says Wirth. “After a few years of college, you might be able to find a job that pays a decent wage.”

The Reserve Officer’s Training Corps — better known as ROTC — offers competitive scholarships for students willing to serve in the military after college. U.P. has active ROTC units.

Each state offers a college savings plan that has tax advantages. Salting away modest amounts after a child is born will add up, especially if the markets are rising. The Oregon College Savings Plan has an option in which the investments get more conservative as the child gets older.

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