I recently received a tuition bill for my youngest daughter. She will be a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, our local, semi-public institution supposedly affordable for in-state students. My middle daughter, who gets no merit-based aid, is a senior at the University of Chicago, a private, out-of-state institution known as one of the most expensive in the country.
Imagine my surprise when I realized it will cost nearly twice as much to send a daughter to Pitt than to send one to Chicago.
Those familiar with financial aid know that step one is the FAFSA, a federal form that figures the expected family contribution. That is what the government says a family can contribute to post-high school education. Chicago, and many private schools, respect that number and provide an aid package with it in mind. Pitt ignores what a middle-class family has the ability to pay. It expects my family to come up with $9,000 more than the government indicates we can afford.
I hope to make other middle-income Pennsylvanians aware that, unless things change in ways they don't look like they are going to, Pitt is no bargain. Consider the state college system or private schools with robust financial aid programs, but be prepared to empty your wallet if you wind up with children going to Pitt.