Archive for ‘college search and selection’

October 9, 2014

Colleges want students who ‘can pay full price’

by Grace

Here’s a sobering reminder for students working on their college applications now.  It’s number 8 on the list of “10 things the college admissions office won’t tell you”.

We’d rather admit someone who can pay full price

All other things being equal, a full pay student often has a better chance of admission than a student who needs financial aid.

According to the College Board, 10% of college freshmen in 2013 were foreign students. One reason colleges woo these international scholars: Many are wealthy enough to pay the full price of tuition.

At publicly funded state universities, higher tuition for out-of-state students often helps subsidize education for state residents. For example, for an undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley, in-state tuition is about $13,000 a year; for an out-of-state or foreign student, tuition is about $36,000 a year.

Full pay can be an admissions boost for marginal students.

The interest in full-pay students is so strong that 10 percent of four-year colleges report that the full-pay students they are admitting have lower grades and test scores than do other admitted applicants.

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Daniel Goldstein, “10 things the college admissions office won’t tell you”, MarketWatch, Oct 4, 2014.

September 15, 2014

Which top colleges are most welcoming to low-income students?

by Grace

Which top colleges are most welcoming to low-income students?  The Upshot used the percentage of students receiving Pell grants along with net price of attendance for low- and middle-income families to find the most economically diverse top colleges.

Most Economically Diverse
Vassar
Grinnell
U.N.C.-Chapel Hill
Smith
Amherst
Harvard
Pomona
St. Mary’s (Ind.)
Susquehanna
Columbia

The biggest theme to emerge from our analysis is that otherwise similar colleges often have very different levels of commitment to economic diversity….

Similarly, by looking at schools on the list like Barnard and U.N.C.-Chapel Hill, it’s clear that otherwise dissimilar colleges show similar economic diversity.

How many low-income students actually graduate?

An additional data point that would be informative is the graduation rates for Pell grant recipients at these schools.  That’s a significant measure of how well a college serves its low-income students.

Low-income families can look at these lists and search out other information to help them understand how welcoming a particular college would be for their child.  Schools that partner with the Posse Foundation, a support program for that enjoys a 90% graduation rate for its participants, should be considered.

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David Leonhardt, “Top Colleges That Enroll Rich, Middle Class and Poor, New York Times, Sept. 8, 2014.

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August 18, 2014

Are you eligible for a college tuition discount?

by Grace

How do you know if a particular college is likely to offer you a discount on their tuition price?  Before you even apply, you can get an estimate by running your specific profile data through a Net Price Calculator (NPC), a tool that can be found on every college’s website.

Forbes ran a Net Price Calculation for five schools using several hypothetical scenarios.  The results show discount rates (financial aid) that would be awarded given specified parameters.

… two types of students, one from a family with an annual income of $300,000 and another from a single-earner family making a mere $12,000 a year. We tested two different academic scenarios: a supersmart kid scoring 1540 on his SAT, with a 4.0 GPA and in the top 10% of his class, and a “B” student scoring 1250 on the SAT, with a GPA of 3.0 and in the top 50% of her graduating class.

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The biggest surprise is that RPI gives more financial aid to English majors than to engineering students.

As you can see all the top institutions except well-endowed Amherst offer discounts or “merit” aid. Only Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) differentiates its aid on its calculator by the student’s intended major as well as by income and ability. RPI clearly wants more poets and is willing to pay for them. President Nixon’s alma mater, Whittier College in southern California, clearly isn’t eager to attract lower-income students. In our test it offered an additional grant of only $1,334 to the low-income overachiever. Even after its ample discount, the needy student’s family still has to come up with half the cost of attendance.

This illustration is a reminder that a Net Price Calculator can help guide your college search.

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Lucie Lapovsky, “What’s Your Tuition Discount?”, Forbes, 7/30/2014.

August 13, 2014

Money Magazine’s college rankings could use more transparency

by Grace

Money Magazine entered the crowded arena of college rankings with its method of evaluating schools on “quality, affordability and outcomes”.  Yes, it’s another imperfect way to rank schools.  But it offers another viewpoint, somewhat limited, for families seeking information during the college search process.

To calculate its rankings, Money evaluates colleges in three equally-weighted categories: quality, affordability and outcomes. Because it’s hard to directly measure the educational quality of a college, Money relies on many of the same proxy measures used by U.S. News and others, including SAT scores, graduation rates, student/faculty ratios and admission yields. These favor colleges that are wealthy, rich and exclusive. Predictably, Harvard and Princeton are near the very top of the quality list.

Affordability is based on “net price”, and considers the average time students take to graduate.

The affordability metrics, by contrast, are more sophisticated than the simple measures of spending per student and published tuition favored by other rankings. Money starts with a college’s “net price” — tuition and room and board minus discounts and institutional scholarships — and then multiplies it by the average number of years students at each college take to graduate. The rankings also factor in levels of student borrowing and federally financed parent debt. Finally, Money includes two measures of student loan default rates that account for the percentage of students who borrow and the demographics of the student body.

Outcome is based on Payscale data, adjusted for demographics and majors.

The third category is the most interesting, and sure to be the most controversial. Money magazine defines outcomes almost entirely in terms of how much students earn after graduation. It uses Payscale, a website that allows people to compare their salaries with other people with similar jobs, as the source of the earnings data.

First, Money rates each college based on the median earnings of graduates within five years of starting their career and again after more than 10 years. Then it calculates separate scores that adjust for each college’s student demographics and mix of academic majors. A college that graduates an unusually large number of public-school teachers, for example, would see its earnings adjusted upward, so it would not be penalized for focusing on public service. A college with many science and engineering majors, who are typically higher paid, would have its earnings adjusted down.

Payscale salary data has limitations.  It is self reported, and the unemployed have no earnings to report so they are excluded from the figures.

Limited disclosure makes these rankings of limited use.

Money Magazine’s report does not break out the individual components used to calculate the total score for a school, leaving the public to wonder how the different factors measure up.  Because of this, these rankings are of limited use.  US News college rankings, on the other hand, disclose many of the individual components that make up a school’s total score, making their report much more useful.

Another important point to remember is that none of these rankings fully incorporates the qualities of the individual student, who “is actually responsible for a significant percentage of the higher wages attributed to college graduates”.

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Kevin Carey, “Building a Better College Ranking System. Wait, Babson Beats Harvard?”, New York Times, July 28, 2014.

August 12, 2014

Interest in Ivy League schools continues to be strong

by Grace

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Despite a drop in applications at Dartmouth, Harvard and Columbia, overall interest in Ivy League schools continues to be strong.

The number of applications has risen steadily for over a decade (perhaps best shown HERE), so even small drops in applications won’t have a huge effect on admission rates at the Ivies. Harvard may have dropped 2% in the number of applicants, but their admit rate went from 5.79% last year to 5.90% this year, not a massive change. Columbia received 1.73% fewer applications from last year to this year, but the competition is not exactly wavering; their admit rate for the Class of 2017 was 6.89% and for the Class of 2018 was 6.95%. Want an even scarier number? Across all Ivy League universities plus MIT and Stanford last year 305,101 students applied and 26,758 were accepted (8.77% overall acceptance rate). This year? 313,981 students applied and 26,154 were accepted. So what’s that percentage tell us? It’s not easier to get in. 8.33% overall acceptance rate. Admissions is a numbers game and the numbers aren’t bending.

There seems to be a general consensus that even with the current downsizing trend in higher education, “elite colleges will continue to hold their value”.

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“Breaking Down the Numbers in Admissions”, Application Boot Camp, July 24th, 2014.

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August 11, 2014

‘Work Colleges’ may be an affordable option

by Grace

Have you heard of “work colleges”?

With rising college costs and a national student loan debt reaching more than $US trillion, “earning while learning” is becoming more appealing for some students. The work college program is different than the federal work study program, which is an optional voluntary program that offers funds for part-time jobs for needy students.

But at the seven so-called Work Colleges — Sterling College, Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Ky., Berea College in Berea, Ky., Blackburn College in Carlinville, Ill., College of the Ozarks in Lookout, Mo., Ecclesia College in Springdale, Ariz., and Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C., — work is required and relied upon for the daily operation of the institution, no matter what the student’s background. The students are then evaluated on their performance.

“It’s a core component of the educational program,” said Robin Taffler, executive director of the Work Colleges Consortium.

Service to others is emphasized.

Work Colleges offer an enhanced learning experience that integrates Work ~ Learning ~ Service to build leadership, work ethic, problem-solving skills and help demonstrate responsibility and commitment. This not only prepares you for life after graduation, but gets you off to the right start by graduating with far less debt than most students.

Member colleges offer a variety of degrees, including business, education, STEM, and the humanities.  Acceptance rates for these colleges range from about 10% to over 60%.  Families seeking affordable options should take a look at these schools.

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Associated Press, “Students At ‘Work Colleges’ Use Campus Jobs To Reduce Debt Before Graduation”, Business Insider, March 31, 2014.

August 1, 2014

What stresses teens the most?

by Grace

US teenagers feel more stressed than adults

27 percent of teenagers reported feeling “extreme stress” during the school year, compared to 20 percent of adults.

It should be no surprise that school-related matters are the most common sources of stress for teenagers.

For teens, the most commonly reported sources of stress are school (83 percent), getting into a good college or deciding what to do after high school (69 percent), and financial concerns for their family (65 percent).

Millenials are the most likely to overeat due to stress

Millennials are more likely than other generations to say they eat too much or eat unhealthy foods due to stress — 50 percent say they have done so in the past month, compared to 36 percent of Gen Xers, 36 percent of Boomers and 19 percent of Matures.5 Millennials are also most likely to say they ate unhealthy foods or overate because of a food craving (62 percent vs. 52 percent of Gen Xers and 53 percent of Boomers).

As we become older we learn better ways to handle stress.

Have US teens always felt more stressed than adults, or is this a recent development?

I suspect that older people have always been better at managing stress.  But today’s “delayed adolescence”, with its postponement of the age when young adults assume primary responsibility for self-sufficiency, may be a reason for a reduced ability to manage stress successfully.  One source of stress that has grown for teens is the complex process of planning and paying for college.  Other past sources of  stress like dangerous industrial working conditions are no longer a problem.  If I had to choose, I would select college planning as my worst problem over many others that adolescents have faced in previous years.

Related:  “‘Every 20-something I know is in therapy for something’” (Cost of College)

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American Psychological Association, Stress in America, February 11, 2014.

July 16, 2014

Don’t fall in love with a college you can’t afford

by Grace

Should I apply to colleges I don’t think I can afford?

Michelle Kretzschmar of Do It Yourself College Rankings answers that question.

No–with a big assumption. The assumption is that you already know approximately how much you can afford and how much financial aid a college is likely to give you. That means that you have already used a calculator such as the FAFS4caster to estimate your expected family contribution (EFC) and the college’s net price calculator.

Searching for merit money could be a reason to apply to colleges that are otherwise unaffordable.

There is a situation where you might apply to colleges that you don’t think you can afford. These are lessor known colleges where your test scores put you in the top 25% of applicants and makes you a candidate for substantial merit money.

But you have to stand firm.  Don’t fall in love with a school you can’t afford.

However, this still requires that you have firmly established what you can afford and be willing to turn down those schools that don’t become affordable even after merit money is awarded. Definitely, do not fall in love with a school you if you don’t know you can afford it.

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Michelle Kretzschmar, “Should I apply to colleges I don’t think I can afford?”, Do It Yourself College Rankings, October 22, 2012.

June 6, 2014

Does regional personality affect a college campus?

by Grace

If this map is accurate and different regions of the country have different personalities, perhaps this information should factor into choosing a college.

20140603.COCStatePersonalities1

Regional personality could influence a campus vibe.  Keep in mind that higher education tends toward a personality type all its own, and schools that draw most students from outside their area will probably have a more diverse mix.  But in some cases this map may indicate subtle differences between universities across the country.  Are you “relaxed and creative”?  Then maybe a Pennsylvania school would be too “temperamental” for you.

That bright yellow color of Texas stands out amid all the blue and green in the mid section of the country, suggesting their “Don’t Mess With Texas” slogan was an appropriate choice.

Related:  ‘A quick way to find if a college has many out-of-state students’

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“This Map Explains Why Midwesterners Find New Yorkers Weird”, Science of Us, June 3, 2014.

May 21, 2014

Apply now for the New York State STEM full-tuition scholarship

by Grace

The deadline to apply for the newly introduced New York State STEM scholarship is August 14.

The NYS STEM Incentive Program provides a full SUNY or CUNY tuition scholarship for the top 10 percent of students in each New York State high school if they pursue a STEM degree in an associates or bachelor degree program and agree to work in a STEM field in New York State for 5 years after graduation.

The dual goals of the program include helping students pursue STEM careers and promoting the state’s economy.

Innovative programs like the STEM Incentive Awards will help students compete in academic fields essential to the future of our state and nation,” said CUNY Interim Chancellor William P. Kelly.

“Through this program, New York State is helping to foster a connection between a student’s interest in STEM and their ability to successfully pursue a STEM career,” said Elsa Magee, Acting President of New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC), the state agency that will administer the program. “These awards will encourage more of our most talented students to pursue their love of science, technology, engineering and math in New York State, which benefits our State economy directly and the global economy, generally.”

Failing to fulfill the program requirements can result in significant penalties.  For example, if a recipient does not complete the STEM degree or does not follow through after graduation on the requirement to work “full-time for five years in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or math in New York State, while maintaining residency within the State”, he must pay back the award.

The full list of approved occupations includes farmers, computer programmers, web developers, actuaries, cartographers, engineers, and secondary and postsecondary science teachers.

There does seem to be some flexibility in the choice of occupations.

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Related:  “Free tuition at New York state universities for top STEM students?” (Cost of College)

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 Sarah Darville, “State launches STEM scholarship for SUNY, CUNY-bound grads”, Chalkbeat New York, May 6, 2014.

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