If you are a parent chilled by accounts of the soaring costs of higher education, particularly at the nation's private colleges and universities, there is both good news and bad.
The pleasant first: most students do not pay the posted price. Instead they receive subsidies and discounts from various sources—Uncle Sam, the state, the institution itself, the Rotary Club—that enable them to matriculate for a significantly lower cost than media tuition alerts would lead you to believe. Fifty-five percent of full-time undergraduates in 1986 received one or more forms of student aid. Moreover, the average assistance package was sufficient to offset 44 percent of their educational expenses. Crudely stated, more than half the students (and their families) get by with paying barely half the posted price.