Affordability of a private education

December 21st, 2015 | SMWC


In the changing landscape of today’s education, “private” no longer equates to “unaffordable.” In fact, private colleges are now more competitive with public institutions than ever before. Private institutions generally have a higher sticker price. However, in some cases, a private education may actually have a lower out-of-pocket cost after financial aid is factored in.

The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities reports a $12,460 average total cost to attend a private four-year college in 2013-2014, which is less than half the $30,090 published tuition at those schools. Additionally, Affordable Colleges Online states, “Recent education statistics debunk a lot of myths around the affordability of small private colleges. Small schools have a reputation of offering a high percentage of need-based grants.”

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) finds itself in line with these statistics, often offering a discount rate of over 50 percent in the cases of some students. In fact 82 percent of SMWC receive financial aid (grants or scholarships etc.). With discount rates and scholarships, a private education becomes affordable to students who otherwise would not have considered a private education.

“We look at the need of each individual student and try to fill that need,” states SMWC Executive Director of Financial Aid Darla Hopper. “Each student is reviewed individually to ensure all financial aid options have been utilized. We package using a financial aid matrix designed specifically for SMWC. This tool allows us to offer institutional awards that makes our tuition competitive with other private and public colleges – making a private college education attainable.”

While public institutions are mostly supported by state funds, private colleges are supported by tuition, endowments and alum giving. For this reason, private colleges often offer the best financial aid.

Additionally, the value of a private education is apparent in the benefits that it provides students. Independent Colleges of Indiana boasts a few of the key the advantages of attending a private college:

  • Higher Graduation Rates:  Students at Indiana’s private, non-profit campuses are twice as likely to graduate in four years as students at other types of institutions.
  • Availability of Financial Aid:  More than 90 percent of students at Indiana's private colleges receive one or more types of financial aid (state, federal, institutional aid, and/or special scholarships), making a private college education affordable and often no more expensive (and sometimes even less so) than a state university.
  • Personal Attention:  Class size at Indiana’s private colleges and universities averages 14 students to one professor, and graduates are more likely to report that they are “highly satisfied” with the quality of their education.
  • Opportunities for Leadership:  With smaller and more personal learning environments, there are more opportunities for students to be involved in extracurricular activities of all sorts, further developing their leadership skills.

“Think of financing an SMWC education as a partnership between the students, their families, the College, the government and the private sector, explained Dottie King, Ph.D., president of SMWC.  “And this partnership has one goal – to ensure that our students have educational opportunities that align with their highest aspirations.”

SMWC makes available more than 50 types of scholarships and grants as well as 45 endowments to students who desire a private educational experience. A few of the top opportunities include:

Wabash Valley High School Scholarship offers a 50 percent tuition scholarship (approximately $14,500) to students who graduated high school in the seven-county area (Clay, Parke, Sullivan, Vermillion or Vigo in Indiana, and Clark or Edgar in Illinois).  To qualify, Wabash Valley students must be admitted and attending SMWC full-time in a degree-seeking campus program.

The 21st Century Scholarship is a needs- and performance-based program that provides students the opportunity to earn up to a four-year scholarship at an Indiana college or university. At SMWC, students may receive $21,000 by maintaining a 3.0 GPA or $15,000 by maintaining a 2.5 GPA.

Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Scholarship is the College’s most prestigious award. The scholarship is based on academics, community involvement and extracurricular activities. Of the seven annual Saint Mother Theodore Guerin award winners, two students receive full-tuition and five receive $17,000.  

Nursing Scholarship is new this fall with launch of the baccalaureate nursing program. This scholarship is available to full-time, residential and commuter students.

All scholarships are renewable for a total of eight semesters as long as recipients maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA and satisfactory academic progress toward their degree. For more information on the financial aid opportunities at SMWC, visit or contact Darla Hopper at dhopper(at) or (812)535-5110.