Archive for ‘colleges’

April 9, 2014

Want to appeal your college financial aid?  Go for it

by Grace

Ron Lieber in the New York Times has some tips for students hoping to appeal their college financial aid packages before making the final decision on where to enroll in the fall.

A change in a your financial situation holds the best chances for a successful appeal.

Your best shot with an appeal will come from a change in your family’s financial circumstances since you applied for aid. Possibilities include job loss or other reduction in income, new health expenses, death of a parent, disability of a family member, nursing home costs, natural disasters or parental credit woes that make borrowing impossible.

Adjusting need-based aid may be a more straightforward proposition, but that’s not always true since need-based awards are often based on a ‘student’s academic merit’.

Some tips:

Some schools automatically match offers from similar schools.

Cornell instantly corrects itself if you’ve got higher need-based aid offers from other Ivy League schools or M.I.T., Duke and Stanford; it will match that offer, no questions asked.

Carnegie Mellon appears to be acting similarly, noting on its site that the university has “been open about our willingness to review financial aid awards to compete with certain private institutions for students admitted under the regular decision plan.” …

Go for it.
Based on some feedback from colleges, Lieber seems to suggest that the odds are not bad that an appeal will result in increased aid.

The worst that can happen is that the financial aid office says no …

Related:  Will colleges negotiate financial aid packages? (Cost of College)

March 25, 2014

Do colleges care more about test scores or grades?

by Grace

The ongoing discussion about the relative importance of grades or test scores in predicting college success continues with a recent report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) titled Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions.

The report found that high school GPA was more important than test scores in predicting college success.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) finds that there is virtually no difference in college graduation rates among students who did and did not submit standardized test scores. It’s a student’s high school GPA that can play a role in college success.

How important are test scores?

I am skeptical of studies showing that test scores do not play a very important role in college grades.  In some cases selection bias skews results.  At least one study that pulled out SAT scores as an independent variable concluded they are, in fact, a key factor.

——

Boston University values high grades over high test scores.

Yesterday I posted a Net Price Calculation showing that in disbursing need-based aid BU awarded more grant money to higher-achieving applicants.  Today’s table* shows that SAT scores don’t seem to help or hurt award amounts.  Grades are more important.

20140324.COCBUNPCLopsided2

The College Board reports how BU rates the relative importance of  these factors in deciding admission:

Very Important

  • Rigor of secondary school record

Important

  • Academic GPA
  • Application Essay
  • Class Rank
  • Recommendations
  • Standardized Test Scores

All students in this NPC illustration took most courses at the “Honors/AP/IB” level.

I keep hearing that grades trump SAT scores in the college admissions game.  Apparently it’s true in the case of Boston University.

* In these examples, total earned income was $80,000/year.

 Kate Rogers, “GPA vs. SAT Scores: Which is More Important?”, FOXBusiness, March 03, 2014.

March 24, 2014

Need-based college financial aid often based on ‘student’s academic merit’

by Grace

When some colleges award financial aid, ‘even “need-based” grants aren’t based solely on need: The size of the grants also depends on a student’s academic merit’.

While families do not usually know the details of how financial aid is disbursed, colleges have access to comprehensive, detailed information about applicants in what amounts to “a massive information imbalance”.

Most colleges offer “vague and superficial” disclosures about how they allocate their financial-aid dollars, said Mark Kantrowitz, a financial-aid expert with Edvisors, which publishes websites about paying for college. “They don’t give details about the actual formulas they use.”

Schools use “financial aid leveraging” to attract stronger students.

While universities don’t want to disclose the details, they have become increasingly strategic in recent years about how they use their aid and which students get it. Aid isn’t just given to students in need, it’s also used now for what schools call “financial aid leveraging” — often to entice high-scoring students who will help a school’s ranking or to give a small, feel-good discount to attract out-of-state students who will still end up paying a higher price.

Boston University is unusually candid about its strategy of using need-based financial aid to attract stronger applicants.

If you are an incoming student, your application for a need-based BU grant award will be considered based on several factors. These include calculated financial eligibility, academic achievement, and the availability of funds for your program of study.

BU publishes informative student profiles showing average aid awards.  I ran some simplified* Net Price Calculations that further illustrate how their financial aid works.  Given the same financial need, the stronger student is would receive more need-based financial aid.

20140324.COCBUNPC4

The Straight-A Student is estimated to receive $35,500 in grants and scholarships, compared to only $12,00 for the Solid B Student.  Remember, this is need-based financial aid.  Merit scholarships may be awarded in addition to these amounts.

* In these examples, total earned income was $80,000/year.

Marian Wang,  “How Exactly Do Colleges Allocate Their Financial Aid? They Won’t Say”, ProPublica, Feb. 25, 2014

Related:  Psst – one of Duke’s so-called merit scholarships is actually need-based (Cost of College)

September 11, 2013

Harvard Business School gives itself a ‘gender makeover’ to ‘foster female success’

by Grace

Here is the problem, at least as perceived by many:

20130910.COCHBSSalariesGender1

As a way to close this gender salary gap, Harvard Business School set out to give itself a gender makeover, changing its curriculum, rules and social rituals to foster female success“.

It is an ambitious plan, intended  “to change how students spoke, studied and socialized”.

But in 2010, Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s first female president, appointed a new dean who pledged to do far more than his predecessors to remake gender relations at the business school. He and his team tried to change how students spoke, studied and socialized….

Am I the only one who thinks this sounds a little creepy?

… The school saw itself as the standard-bearer for American business. Turning around its record on women, the new administrators assured themselves, could have an untold impact at other business schools, at companies populated by Harvard alumni and in the Fortune 500, where only 21 chief executives are women. The institution would become a laboratory for studying how women speak in group settings, the links between romantic relationships and professional status, and the use of everyday measurement tools to reduce bias.

Many of us are familiar with the gender wage gap, including the part about women often feeling they have “to choose between academic and social success” and that business schools see their graduates “part by gender after graduation, with more men going into higher-paying areas like finance and more women going into lower-paying ones like marketing”.

But I didn’t realize that a typical HBS female student had to “be taught how to raise her hand”.  Who knew that these best and brightest examples of high-achieving women were such wallflowers?  Apparently they need coaching on how to participate effectively in classes where men tend to take over discussions.

… Reach up assertively! No apologetic little half-waves! …

Women at Harvard did fine on tests. But they lagged badly in class participation, a highly subjective measure that made up 50 percent of each final mark. Every year the same hierarchy emerged early on: investment bank and hedge fund veterans, often men, sliced through equations while others — including many women — sat frozen or spoke tentatively. The deans did not want to publicly dwell on the problem: that might make the women more self-conscious. But they lectured about respect and civility, expanded efforts like the hand-raising coaching and added stenographers in every class so professors would no longer rely on possibly biased memories of who had said what.

Marianne Bertrand from the Chicago Booth School of Business recently gave a presentation that included a list of “documented robust gender differences in a set of psychological attributes”.

–Women are more risk averse
–Women negotiate less/women do not ask
–Women perform more poorly in competitive environments and shy away from such competitive environments
–Women lack in self-confidence (while men tend to be overly confident)

Even if the environment can be modified to promote more women into corporate leadership roles, Bertrand points out that policy responses will only be effective if we can confirm that these are learned behaviors.

… Innate or learned? nature vs. nurture?  …

Related:  Women who graduated from highly selective colleges more likely to drop out of workforce (Cost of College)

September 3, 2013

Financial aid for high-income families at Duke University

by Grace

Duke University’s financial aid statistics show that even “rich” families are eligible to receive help in paying for college.

20130815.COCDukeFAIncome1

Since the numbers for each income group are not provided, we don’t know how many families are in the top categories.  Based on information from other sources, a reasonable estimate would be that 400-800 families whose incomes are $130,000 or more are receiving financial aid averaging about $20,000 per year.  These figures comprise need-based and merit-based financial aid, including athletic scholarships.  That’s about 6-12% of total Duke undergraduates.


AWARD STATISTICS FOR DUKE’S 2011-12 ACADEMIC YEAR

20130815.COCDukeFAPiecChart1


Total Enrolled Undergrads:
 6,813

Total Aid Recipients: 3,469

% of Total Aid Recipients
Merit Aid Students: 6.1%
Athletic Aid Students: 7.3%
Need-based Grant Aid Students: 86.6%

% of Total Enrolled Undergrads
Merit Aid Students: 3.1%
Athletic Aid Students: 3.7%
Need-based Grant Aid Students: 44.1%


Duke is one of only two of the top ten universities that give out merit scholarships.   Although not very common, in some cases it is possible to qualify for need-based aid even with an income approaching $250,000.

How Duke Does Aid is a short, informative video on how financial aid works at Duke.

Related:  Psst – one of Duke’s so-called merit scholarships is actually need-based (Cost of College)

August 7, 2013

Did Udacity online class pilot see poor results due to bad planning?

by Grace

Poor planning appears to be a factor in the disappointing outcome of one Udacity pilot program.

San Jose State suspends collaboration with online provider

San Jose State suspends its project with Udacity to offer low-cost, for-credit online courses after many students fail to pass them.

San Jose State University is suspending a highly touted collaboration with online provider Udacity to offer low-cost, for-credit online courses after finding that more than half of the students failed to pass the classes, officials said Thursday.

Preliminary results from a spring pilot project found student pass rates of 20% to 44% in remedial math, college-level algebra and elementary statistics courses. In a somewhat more promising outcome, 83% of students completed the classes.

The San Jose State experiment with online education was being closely watched by other universities as they begin to step farther into the virtual classroom.

Udacity, a private Silicon Valley education group, and San Jose State announced jointly that they have agreed to pull the courses this fall to examine results in greater detail and fine-tune many aspects of the project.

“There are many complex factors that relate to student performance, and we’re trying to study the factors that help or hinder students in this environment,” said San Jose State Provost Ellen Junn.

Since the pass rates for students in traditional classes was not disclosed, it’s unclear how the online classes fared in comparison.

Udacity students were not typical San Jose students.

… Fewer than half of the Udacity students were enrolled in San Jose State; many were high school students from low-income communities.

Many Udacity students did not even have access to a computer.  Yeah, that might be a problem.

Provost Junn admitted the pilot program had some difficulties.

She acknowledged that educators did a poor job of explaining upfront what students should expect.

“We learned that we could have prepared them better about what it means to take an online course and that this is a university course with real faculty teaching for university credit,” Junn said. “Maybe some students didn’t take it quite seriously.”

It appears San Jose State rushed into this new venture unprepared.  After changes are made, San Jose State will again offer the Udacity online classes next spring.

Related:

July 26, 2013

Fiske lists best colleges for the money

by Grace

The Fiske Guide to Colleges Best Buys of 2014 was recently released.

PUBLIC PRIVATE
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Adelphi University
  • Iowa State University
  • Brigham Young University
  • New College of Florida
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Oregon State University
  • Clark University
  • Purdue University
  • Cooper Union
  • SUNY-Binghamton University
  • Cornell College
  • SUNY-College at Geneseo
  • Deep Springs College
  • Texas A&M University
  • Elon University
  • The Evergreen State College
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)
  • Northeastern University
  • University of Edinburgh (UK)
  • Olin College of Engineering
  • University of Florida
  • Rhodes College
  • University of Iowa
  • Rice University
  • University of Mary Washington
  • St. Olaf College
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • The College of Wooster
  • University of North Carolina Asheville
  • Trinity University (TX)
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of the South (Sewanee)
  • University of Oregon
  • Wabash College
  • University of St. Andrews (UK)
  • Warren Wilson College
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Xavier University of Louisiana
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison

Geared toward parents, counselors and college-bound students, the guide uses high academic rating, inexpensive or moderate price and the quality of student life on campus as criteria for its best buys. All of the guide’s best-buy schools, including 21 public institutions, fall into the inexpensive or moderate price category, and most have four- or five-star academic ratings.

Yeah, it’s another ranking system that has its flaws.  But if you’re seeking value in a college choice, it might be worth taking a look at this list.

I notice that New York, North Carolina, and Texas each have two public colleges on the list.  Many of the Fiske schools are also on Kiplinger’s list of best values in public colleges.

June 10, 2013

Preferential packaging – college financial aid as a recruiting tool

by Grace

Preferential packaging of financial aid is commonly used by private colleges and universities.  Because schools are not transparent about this strategy, many families are ignorant of how it works.  Muhlenberg College is unusually open about explaining this practice.

Preferential packaging means, simply, that the students a college would most like to enroll will receive the most advantageous financial aid packages.

There are three basic types of financial aid (FA):  grants, loans, and work.

A preferential financial aid package includes a far greater percentage of grant aid than self-help (loans and work). Because they have discretion over how much grant aid they choose to award a student, a college can award a bigger grant to a student they would really like to enroll….

Willamette University also is exceptionally forthright about its preferential packaging.

For students with demonstrated financial need, the percentage of need that is met with “gift-aid” (scholarships and grants from all sources) will also reflect the students’ academic standing within our admitted applicant pool. In other words, the stronger the student, the greater the scholarship award is likely to be.

Let’s look at an example from a CollegeConfidential post.

In this case the college’s Cost of Attendance (COA) is $40,000, and two applicants have the same financial need but quite different academic credentials.

Student A
ACT 33
GPA 4.0
EFC = $7k
Student B
ACT 24
GPA 3.2
EFC = $7k

Student A is more attractive to the college because his stats would improve the school’s stats.  Perhaps Student A is also an Underrepresented Minority (URM), another desirable factor.  Both students will be offered $10,000 in FA, but Student A will receive a preferential package that does not include a loan.

Financial Aid Offered
Student A:  $8,000 grant; $2,000 work-study – Total = $10,000
Student B:  $3,000 grant; $5,000 loan; $2,000 work-study - Total = $10,000

Note that these awards are technically “need-based”, but in fact do take merit into consideration.  If it is the official policy of this college only to offer FA based on need and not on merit, another student with the highest of academic credentials but lacking any financial need (EFC = COA) would receive nothing.

What it means to applicants

  • Students seeking to maximize financial aid should apply to schools where their statistics place them in the upper third of the applicant pool.
  • Students with no financial need are shut out of many merit awards that include a need component.

Related:

June 3, 2013

MOOCs may cut the price of a SUNY degree by one-third

by Grace

The State University of New York’s new agreement to offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) opens the possibility of obtaining a SUNY degree at about one-third discount off full price.

SUNY announced Thursday that it signed an agreement to partner with Coursera, a website with 3.7 million users that is a leader in offering what are called “massive open online courses.” Universities worldwide, including private schools in New York like the University of Rochester, upload video lectures and course materials onto the website in an effort to enhance educational access.

Starting with a course from Stony Brook University in the fall, SUNY is planning to offer some courses through the site, although how many is unclear.

Exact details are still to be worked out, but students could be granted prior learning assessment credits for MOOC courses taken through a SUNY campus or even elsewhere.  These “would essentially act as transfer credits” that would require a fee, but not a tuition charge for each course.  Presumably the credit transfer fees would be minimal, well below tuition costs.

A student might be able to get his SUNY degree at about two-thirds the cost of a traditional program.

SUNY allows only one-third of the coursework for a degree to be transferred.

“There would be a limit,” SUNY spokesman David Doyle said. “It’s not like you could get a free degree.”

This strikes me as not very different from the Advanced Placement program, which allows college students credit for up to one year ‘s worth of college courses.

Related:

May 7, 2013

‘Rich’ families get a sweet financial aid deal at the most selective universities

by Grace

For students who win the college admissions lottery and get in to the most selective universities, high income may not be a barrier to receiving financial aid.  Here are some examples.

HARVARD

2011-12 School Year:  About 240 families earning $180,000-200,00 received financial aid.

Beginning with the Class of 2016, families with incomes between $65,000 and $150,000 will contribute from zero to ten percent of income, and those with incomes above $150,000 will be asked to pay proportionately more than 10%, based on their individual circumstances. Families at all income levels who have significant assets will continue to pay more than those in less fortunate circumstances.

PRINCETON

2011-12 School Year:  99% of families earning $180,000-200,000 who applied for financial aid received grants that averaged $23,600.

Applicants receive aid based on their families’ financial need. We do not use income cutoffs when determining whether to award aid.  Any student whose family feels unable to afford the full cost of attendance is encouraged to apply for aid.

YALE

2011-12 School Year:  99% of families earning $150-200,00 who applied for financial aid were approved.  Grants for those 505 families averaged $26,500 each.

  • Families whose total gross income is less than $65,000 are not expected to make any financial contribution towards their child’s Yale education. 100% of the student’s total cost of attendance will be financed with a Yale Financial Aid Award.
  • Families earning between $65,000 and $200,000 (with typical assets) annually contribute a percentage of their yearly income towards their child’s Yale education, on a sliding scale that begins at 1% just above $65,000 and moves toward 20% at the $200,000 level.
  • There is no strict income cutoff for financial aid awards. Many families with over $200,000 in annual income receive need-based aid from Yale.

UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

2012-13 School Year:  59% of families with incomes above $120,000 who applied received financial aid.

The average University of Chicago aid applicant receives $37,500 in scholarships each year.

$160,000 income puts you in the top 10% of families in the United States.

Related:

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