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A question about tuition from an ACT survey

The other day, Michelle and I were trying to figure out whether or not there were still slots available in Grinnell for one of the ACT [1] testing dates. At first glance we could only check that by going through the registration process. And that meant that we had to fill out a fairly long survey.

"Do you like to … Pack boxes? Compute your home finances? Repair trees damaged in the storm? Predict the results of chemical reactions?

What do you want to do when you graduate? [2]

What is your preferred language? [3]

Do you want to go to a public school? A private school? A two-year
colleage? A university? And what two states would you prefer?

Pages and pages and pages of survey questions. I wish I could say that he enjoyed filling it out and we enjoyed helping, but neither he nor we found it a good use of your time. At least it was less frustrating than the StrengthsFinder survey [4].

The options for one question seemed surprising to me. The question was

I prefer to attend a college with a maximum yearly tuition (not including room and board) of:

Now, think about what options you’d choose? I’d probably start with something like under $5,000 and then list multiples of $10K or so afterwards.

But it appears that my experience is different than that of the rest of the world. Here are the options they presented.

$500 | $1,000 | $2,000 | $3,000 | $4,000 | $5,000 | $7,500 | $10,000 | No preference

Those numbers seem low to me. So, let’s see what tuitions are at some schools in Iowa [5,6,7].

  • Des Moines Area Community College (Iowa Resident): $4,832 [8].
  • Iowa State (Iowa Resident): $8,646.
  • University of Northern Iowa (Iowa Resident): $8,699
  • University of Iowa (Iowa Resident): $9,189.50 [9].
  • University of Northern (Nonresident); $19,241.
  • Iowa State (Nonresident): $22,472.
  • University of Iowa (Nonresident) $30,8333.50.
  • Buena Vista University: $32,854.
  • Central College: $37,295.
  • Drake University: $41,250 [10].
  • Luther College: $41,950.
  • Cornell College: $42,299.
  • Coe College: $42,430.
  • Grinnell College: $50,714 [11].

Except for the community college, all of these are pretty close to (or far above) the top number. And all of the private (or out of state) tuitions are much higher than $10,000. Now I’m just left to wonder: Where does the ACT come up with those numbers?

Side note: We give a lot of financial aid. So while Grinnell has by far the highest tuition and fees, I believe that the average Grinnell student graduates with less debt than the average UofI or Iowa State student [12,14].

Future musing: It looks like we charge more for room and board, too. I wonder why. It’s not like our food service or rooms are that much nicer than those at our peers [15].

[1] For those of you on the coasts, the ACT is a college preparation test akin to the SAT.

[2] Youngest son chose Undecided. The next question was How sure are you? He chose Very sure.

[3] Although he was tempted to check Other and then fill in some computer language (perhaps Whitespace), we decided that the language question actually influences how the design the test and we therefore took it seriously.

[4] As quickly as possible, pick one of these options, both of which seem to be correct, or both of which seem to be incorrect.

[5] Data from,,,, <>,,,,, some pages I forgot to record, and Google.

[6] In most cases, I’ve also included mandatory fees, since that’s how things are listed on the Web sites.

[7] Some of these numbers are for 2017-18, some are for 2018-19.

[8] $151 per credit hour. I’ve assumed two semesters of 16 credit hours each.

[9] I love that this large amount ends with fifty cents.

[10] Drake promises that tuition won’t go up during your four years. They also didn’t include fees on the part of the page I looked at.

[11] Grinnell separates tuition and fees. Tuition for 2017-18 is $50,264 and fees are $450. (Cornell also broke things down; their fees are $425. Coe’s are $340.)

[12] No; that’s not because most Grinnell students don’t need to take out loans.

[14] YMMV.

[15] Or have I been missing something?

Version 1.0 of 2018-01-08.