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Students still flock to private colleges despite 'scarily high tuition prices'
Only 20 percent of students choose a private college education, but surprising discounts and burdens brought on by a public education make it a reasonable choice. - photo by Payton Davis
When Becca Arbacher chose to attend a private college, she made a choice different from 80 percent of her peers, according to NPR.

Arbacher also opted to pay $20,000 a year to enroll at an Ivy League institution, Columbia, over a state university, the University of Michigan, on a full-ride scholarship.

However, when she looks back at her time at a private university a choice only 20 percent of students make Arbacher has little to regret, she told NPR.

"Being at Columbia has offered me some really incredible opportunities that I wouldn't have otherwise," she said. "It's kind of impossible for me to guess what my experience would have been like at Michigan."

And recent tuition discounts to private universities and long-term financial aid strategies could make choices like Arbacher's more feasible.

According to Time, private colleges' "scarily high tuition prices" aren't so frightening considering that only 11 percent of freshmen paid them.

"The rest 89 percent of freshmen at private colleges received a school grant or scholarship worth, on average, 54 percent of the published or 'sticker' tuition, the National Association of College and University Business Officers reported," according to Time. "Both those numbers are all-time records."

These colleges hope to draw students in with large grants that make the typical $45,000-a-year tuition price tag less daunting, and, according to Time, net tuition for students fell to about $20,000 at universities that accepted more than half of applicants.

Savings weren't so stellar at more selective schools, but the private school tuition deals "still (leave) more than 1,000 non-elite private colleges attempting to attract students with ever-bigger scholarships or discounts off their ever-higher tuition," Time reported.

Discounted tuition compounded with other factors make people's assumption that attending a public university is the thriftiest choice an "oversimplification," Erik Bertelsen wrote for the Portland Press Herald.

Bertelsen wrote that he has three college-aged kids of his own; they applied to public universities, but by doing a bit of homework, uncovered other options.

"In the end, based on generous financial aid AND reasonable loan expectations it cost less for them to attend 'expensive' private institutions than it would have to attend state schools," Bertelsen wrote. "Further, the load portion of their awards were less than those extended by the publics."

Looking at loans as long-term investments also helps, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Forbes' Troy Onink suggested parents consider a "guaranteed Private College 529 Plan." The plan ensures a rate-of-return equivalent to however much tuition prices increase between now and when the child embarks to college.

But it helps to know which private colleges are the cheapest. Click through the slideshow below to see the U.S. News & World Report's 10 least expensive U.S. private colleges.