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What Does it Cost to Attend Washington and Lee University?

Considered one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation, Washington and Lee University is a great choice for students who are looking for the intimate atmosphere of a small college while still experiencing the level of resources and opportunities available at larger institutions. Only admitting around 500 students a year, your student can be reassured that they’ll receive a lot of individualized attention from staff and faculty alike.


As a private college, you may be worried that sending your student to Washington and Lee will break the bank. Read on to find out how an education at this prestigious liberal arts college might be more affordable than you think.


Why College Costs Are Highly Variable


We’ll get to the “total price” of an education at Washington and Lee, but you should first be aware that just looking at the total price can be a bit misleading. Most students do not pay the list price at any school, so you need to dig a little deeper to find what your true estimated cost will be.


When considering any college, you should instead compare the net price, or the cost to your family, that the school will be. Some schools with widely different list prices may end up costing you a similar amount, which means that you could still send your student to a school with a higher price.


In order to determine what your net cost will be, you’ll need to consider how financial aid from three different sources will reduce your net cost:


  • Federal, state, and local government aid
  • Institutional aid
  • Private scholarships.


We’re going to break down how each of these factors affect each other. This way, you can make an informed decision about what the approximate net cost of Washington and Lee will be for your family.


Washington and Lee University’s List Price


What we call the list price is what colleges and universities call the cost of attendance. The cost of attendance includes factors like tuition and fees, room, board, and other miscellaneous costs of living.


As you can see, there is even variability in the list price itself, since the miscellaneous costs of living will vary from student to student. What colleges share is usually an average of what their current students pay, but it’s still a good starting point for what the full price of a college education will be. For the 2016-2017 school year, the total price for in-state and out-of-state students was the same, at $63,500.


Remember, most families won’t pay the full list price, but there are some families who can expect to pay full price. Typically, families with a household income over $175,000 a year won’t qualify for need-based aid, so if the student doesn’t receive any merit aid then those families can expect to pay the full price at any institution.


What is the Price with Financial Aid?


Knowing that you’re probably not paying the full price should bring some relief, but it’s important to look at what the average family pays to send their student to college. At Washington and Lee, the average net cost for students with financial aid was $53,002.


Cost Based on Household Income


Although the average price with financial aid may still seem high, families actually pay a different amount based on household income. The lower your household income, the more you can expect to receive in need-based aid, which helps make college accessible to all students.


Family Income Average Net Price
$0-$30,000 $920
$30,001-$48,000 $1,789
$48,001-$75,000 $8,962
$75,001-$110,000 $17,605
Over $110,000 $34,627


What is the Merit Aid Net Price? What is the Average Net Price for Students Without Need?


If your family income is close to or above the $175,000 mark, you may be wondering if you’re going to be stuck paying full price at any institution your student decides to attend. However, there is one way that students without financial need can still reduce their net cost: merit-based aid.


Merit aid is usually awarded on a need-blind basis, meaning that students of any income level can receive these grants and scholarships to help cover their educational expenses. At Washington and Lee, about 12.5% of students without financial need receives merit aid, and the average size of the merit award is $5,607. This brings the net cost down to $57,893.

Student Loans and Debt


Even with merit-based and need-based aid, students need to make up the remaining cost of their education. This is where the infamous loan comes in; at Washington and Lee, a little less than three-quarters of the students have a loan—71% to be exact. The average size of the federal student loan per student was $3,764.


Student Outcomes


Any school that your student chooses to attend will be a financial investment on the part of your family. As a result, it’s important to consider the graduation rate and the average salary of graduates.


While your student’s own ambition and work ethic will mostly determine their success, it’s good to know that schools like Washington and Lee are supportive of students in this regard. Washington and Lee University has a six-year graduation rate of 89%, and after ten years the average graduate earns $76,100 a year.


Local Cost of Living Considerations


Washington and Lee is located in beautiful and historic Lexington, Virginia. Its cost of living index is 93.2, which means that its cost of living is about 6.8% lower than the national average. Because of its small town environment, Lexington is great for fostering the liberal arts college atmosphere that Washington and Lee prides itself for.


Washington and Lee requires that their students live on-campus through their junior year, but your student may be interested in moving off-campus during their senior year. If so, here are the current average apartment rents in Lexington:


  • 1 bedroom: $690
  • 2 bedrooms: $880
  • 3 bedrooms: $1,210


A common way that students help their families keep the net cost of their education down is by working. Because it is a small town, your student may have trouble easily finding a part-time job, but with enough persistence they’re sure to eventually find something. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the current minimum wage in Virginia is the same as the federal minimum wage at $7.25. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage is $25.95.


Other Ways to Save on College Costs


One of the best ways to reduce your net cost is to encourage your student to apply for private scholarships. Many of these scholarships are merit-based and need-blind, which means that students of any income level can apply for them and the decisions are based on the student’s achievements in academics or their extracurriculars. Here are a few places to start looking for scholarships:


Your student’s high school. Many high school guidance counselors are aware of local scholarships and opportunities to help students make college more affordable, but they don’t always have the means to publicize them as much as they would like. By making the effort to reach out to the school, you may find opportunities for your students where there is very little competition.


Your employer. Many private companies offer scholarships to the children of employees, which means that your student doesn’t have to compete with as many other students for a chance to receive the award. You should ask your supervisor or HR if there is such a program at your organization.


College-specific scholarships. Although some colleges will consider applicants automatically for certain types of merit awards, there are others that your student will need to apply for separately in order to be considered. You can check out Washington and Lee’s additional scholarships here.


Wrapping It Up


Through traditional financial aid and old-fashioned saving skills, you can reduce the net cost of a college education to your family and make your student’s dream school financially feasible. We hope that you have a better idea of what you might expect to pay if your student ultimately decides to attend Washington and Lee.


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For more information about financial aid, check out these posts:


How to Maximize Your Child’s Merit Aid Eligibility

Parents: 12 Must-Know College Financial Aid Terms

FAFSA, CSS Profile, IDOC, Oh My: A Guide to Financial Aid

Short Bio
Gianna Cifredo is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she majored in Philosophy. She has six years of higher education and test prep experience, and now works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and is a proud cat mom.