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ISSUE 117 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 10/31/2003

Education, value earns ‘Best Buy’ recognition

By Emelie Heltsley
Staff Writer

Friday, October 31, 2003

The Fiske Guide to Colleges recently came out with their newest college manual and considers St. Olaf a "Best Buy."

What exactly does it mean to be considered a Fiske Best Buy? Katherine Ruby, director of financial aid, said, "Compared to other schools, St. Olaf is a good value for the price we charge."

As the Fiske Guide says, "We have combined the cost data with academic and other information about each college and university, and have come up with 44 institutions…that offer remarkable educational opportunities at a relatively modest cost."

The phrase "Best Buy" may not be the first thing parents think of when they see their student’s tuition statement, but compared to many other schools their children could be going to, St. Olaf is indeed a "Best Buy."

The Fiske Guide says that "price and quality do not go hand-in-hand." Just because something is "cheap" does not mean it is a good deal.

The qualifications for being a "Best Buy," according to the Fiske Guide, are the academic programs, music department and study abroad opportunities available to students. In other words, what St. Olaf students are offered makes their stay at St. Olaf worth the cost. While parents may not realize it, St. Olaf’s costs are not as expensive as many other colleges out there.

Room and board is cheaper at St. Olaf than colleges on the coast and big city schools. Room and board at NYU in New York City is $10,400. At UC Berkley in California, room and board is $9,682, while Macalester in St. Paul charges $6,874. St. Olaf’s room and board is $4,850.

As Ruby said, "Room and board is part of the value here."

St. Olaf’s tuition is also lower than many schools. At $23,650, St. Olaf’s tuition is lower than Carleton ($28,527) and Macalester ($25,070), both in Minnesota. "Relatively speaking, for the quality of education, [St. Olaf] tuition is a good buy," said Ruby.

Not only are St. Olaf’s tuition and room and board cheaper than many other schools, but the strong Financial Aid department works to help students.

"Every student gets a discount," said Ruby. Gifts and endowments go towards college costs, lowering the "sticker price" for everyone.

On average, 60 percent of first year students receive need based financial aid from St. Olaf, and 83 percent of students who apply for aid received it. According to Barb Lundberg, Vice President and Dean of Enrollment at St. Olaf, these articles in college guides do make a difference in enrollment. "They don’t have a big effect," she said, "but there is a small spike in the numbers."

Lundberg understands the importance of being a "Best Buy." She said, "It is helpful for us because it positions us in people’s minds ...the value of education is greater than money charged to families because value can’t be measured in dollars and cents. Whenever an institution can change lives, it is a best buy."

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