Would Saint Peter’s University achieve the WSJ Affordability Sweet 16?

When Saint Peter’s University, a tiny school in Jersey City, NJ, transformed itself into Cinderella by dancing into the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s Sweet 16, she took the moment to brag about herself.

An advertisement aired during the games highlighted a word not often associated with higher education: affordable. A quick check by The Wall Street Journal of the US Department of Education’s College Navigator website found that the Peacocks’ pride was justified.

Compared to other private colleges hosting the 2022 tournament, Saint Peter’s is a relative steal. The average net price for a school year—the cost to families after accounting for scholarships and grants—totaled $16,487. Some of her Catholic brothers, including Seton Hall, Gonzaga, Villanova and Marquette, on average charged families more than double that, according to the government.

The numbers, accessed by the Journal through College Navigator, reflect full-time freshmen from the 2019-2020 school year who received scholarships or grants.

Even more heavenly for St. Peter’s fans: the school was more affordable than your average in-state student at the University of Kentucky, No. 2 who upset the Peacocks in the first round. The average net fare in Kentucky for state residents was $19,831. Although it rivaled any private university in the tournament in terms of cost, St. Peter would actually have lost to its second-round opponent, a public university, in this regard. Murray State, a Kentucky school outside the Ohio Valley Conference, was an even better bargain with an average net rate of $11,628 per year.

The Journal examined all teams in the men’s and women’s tournaments to determine which would be the national champions of affordability based not on their published tuition but rather on the more meaningful net price. Teams received the same seedings that were assigned to them in the actual tournament brackets. The Journal’s 64-team category includes schools that would have won their play-in games if those matchups were based on prize.

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In our version of the men’s division, Cal State Fullerton eventually beats Duke, Michigan State, Texas Tech, New Mexico State, North Carolina and finally San Diego State to fell the nets. Cal State Fullerton’s average net price was just $8,322 per year.

“We congratulate our Titans for leading us to the big dance, and we will celebrate winning the Affordability Challenge,” said a spokesman for Cal State Fullerton.

Public universities dominate the recalibrated male class, making up the entire Sweet 16. However, these schools are not required to report average net rates for out-of-state students, only for residents. (Their published rates can be two to three times the corresponding figures for domestic students. Therefore, even with scholarships, the bill for students from further afield can still be high.)

Curious about how another team performs even if they didn’t make it through the tournament? For a step-by-step guide to finding the average net rate for a school and how to find net rates for students in specific income brackets, see The WSJ Guide to Student Loans: Navigating the Myths and Misunderstandings About College Debt. Here.

On the women’s side, four private schools had lower net prices than at least one public school.

While the public University of Massachusetts, Amherst, averaged $22,505, Brigham Young, Princeton, Stanford, and Mercer Universities — all private — were rated less expensive. This is perhaps surprising given that many private schools have higher sticker prices than their public counterparts. It’s a good reminder that how expensive a college is for a given family often has little to do with the school’s published prices.

BYU would make the women’s Final Four in our model, but the University of South Florida would ultimately beat both the Cougars and the University of Florida Gators to take the crown. The average net price in South Florida was $10,004. (Four of the five teams with the lowest average net price are in Florida.)

A South Florida spokeswoman said the school has not collected tuition and fees for nearly a decade and that the university is “proud to be recognized for providing a quality education at a great price.”

Check out the WSJ’s Guide to Student Loans: Navigating the Myths and Misconceptions About College Debt.

Write to Melissa Korn at Melissa.Korn@wsj.com

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/ncaa-saint-peters-university-march-madness-affordability-11648150797?mod=rss_markets_main Would Saint Peter’s University achieve the WSJ Affordability Sweet 16?

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