Sorry, I know this is an old thread, but I just read it and wanted to weigh in.
My first reaction was: $30K a year for tuition, books and living expenses is a bargain! That is pretty much the average in-state tuition (including all fees like health insurance) at a UC school now. Berkeley $36K, UC Santa Cruz $31K, UC Davis $35K. Chico State is around $25K.
My kids went private. Now you are in the $60-$65K/year range. Doesn't matter that it's not Stanford or Harvard; private college tuition is over the top. My younger one has a nice merit scholarship that brings the cost down to about $45K/year.
But for them, the decision to go small, private liberal arts was the right one because, while they both did OK in their large-ish, but very good, public high school, I think each of them would easily have been lost or looked over in a large research institution during their undergrad years. The small private schools, with the close student-professor relationships they built, gave them the sense of place and accomplishment that they had a hard time finding in high school.
They understand that they are EXTREMELY fortunate that their parents are able to give them the gift of a debt-free undergraduate education.
We told them if they chose the private schools for undergrad, then we could offer only limited financial help (in the form of small interest-free loans) if any; had they chosen a UC or CSU, there would have been more available. They accepted that tradeoff. But I have seem both of them really shine and become so much more confident in their abilities during their time in the liberal arts schools they attended, I think it was well worth it.
Not to say that the public schools don't also have the same result. We would have been happy to send them to any of the state schools. But some people definitely do better in a smaller environment, at least for under grad, so no regrets.