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Private Schools Fear Enrollment Drop

January 6, 2009, 5:01 PM by Katie Janssen

Private Schools Fear Enrollment Drop
Private colleges everywhere are closely watching the numbers, to see just how the economy is impacting enrollment. But officials say you don't have to forgo a private school education and are trying to make it easier than ever for families to afford one. 

The average private college tuition in the U.S. is around $35,000 a year, and some families are having a hard time justifying the cost. Private school enrollments nationwide are down. 

At Augustana College in Sioux Falls, the story's a little different. 

"We hit our fall enrollment numbers, which was very exciting, and we're on target for spring. We're not 100 percent we'll be right where we budgeted, but we think we'll be close,” Vice President for Enrollment Nancy Davidson said. 

Davidson says it still doesn't help the perception that private school is unaffordable, especially when times are tough. 

"I think families just assume they're going to have a lot more debt if they choose a private college. The reality is that private colleges all over offer merit scholarships and need-based assistance, that really helps," she said. 

Davidson says the economy is definitely having an impact on how far away students are willing to travel from home to go to school. 

"Part of it, they're indicating, would be travel costs, there may be a few who live at home to try and save," Davidson said. 

Schools themselves are trying to help. Augustana is even offering an incentive for students who file early with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA: the chance to win $400 toward one semester's worth of books. 

Davidson says families need to take the time to apply. 

"I know it's one more step and one more process, but I think it's worthwhile for them to see if they qualify," she said. 

Davidson also says the enrollment office has received a lot more questions about scholarships earlier on in the process.

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