Archive for ‘colleges’

September 23, 2014

Which colleges meet full financial need?

by Grace

Only 62 colleges will meet 100% of a student’s demonstrated financial need.

Schools that meet 100 percent of need can use a combination of loans, scholarships, grants and work-study to fill the gap between the cost of attendance – tuition, fees, room, board and other expenses – and the expected family contribution, a number determined by the information you provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, including tax data, assets and family size. ​

Of the 1,137 colleges and universities that submitted financial need data to U.S. News, just 62 of them cover full need.

Many of these schools rank high, with about one-third placing in the top 10 in their categories.

Among them are Princeton University and Williams College, ranked No. 1 among National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges, respectively.

Just three public schools are included on the list that meet full financial need.

  • University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill
  • University of Virginia
  • United States Merchant Marine Academy

Here’s an explanation of how “full financial need” is defined:

FULL-NEED SCHOOL — One that claims to meet the student’s full financial needs, defined as the Cost of Attendance (COA) minus the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). It is worth noting that many families are surprised to learn that the school’s determination of financial need is often lower than the family’s own assessment. Also, the school may decide that a loan “award” will be used to meet all or part of the student’s need.

The complete list of schools can be viewed at the U.S. News website.

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August 29, 2014

Beloit College goes test optional, hoping to attract more applicants

by Grace

Starting with the fall 2015 admission cycle, Beloit will become test optional, which means that the submission of standardized test scores (i.e. ACT/SAT) will be optional for domestic first-year applicants.

Statement from the vice president for enrollment, Robert Mirabile:

“Given the extremely competitive marketplace in which we recruit students, it is important for us to carefully weigh the costs and benefits of each part of our application,” Mirabile said. “From this perspective, I am concerned that the standardized test requirement adds little unique value to our selection process. Indeed, the requirement can, in some cases, inhibit access to Beloit among capable students who would greatly contribute to and benefit from the College.”

There are different ways to interpret the meaning of “contribute” as used in Mirabile’s statement.  The cost of attending Beloit College is $54,524 annually.  Here’s one cynical reaction to the announcement:

Translation: We’re so desperate, we’ll take anyone.

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 5, 2014

Purdue University tries consolidating and streamlining to cut costs

by Grace

Purdue University president Mitch Daniels has been taking an aggressive stance in addressing high college costs, using “a combination of systemic cuts, organizational realignments and cash incentives”.  Of course, it is not an easy undertaking.

… criticism has come from both directions. Some think he is moving too fast, others not fast enough when it comes to cutting student costs.

Daniels faces many of the same challenges experienced by most other university presidents.

  1. Diminishing state funding, some of which was initiated while Daniels was governor of Indiana
  2. Administrative bloat. which has grown 75% over the last 13 years at Purdue

Consolidating and cost-shifting

Mr. Daniels says he is consolidating administrative jobs where prudent and leaving jobs unfilled where the duplication of effort makes that possible. He has jettisoned 10 university cars, consolidated hundreds of thousands of feet of off-campus rental storage and introduced a higher-deductible health-care plan.

Incentives to develop a three-year degree

He has also created two, half-million-dollar prizes for the first department that devises a three-year degree or a degree based on what a student already knows, not the number of hours he or she sits in a class. This summer, the school offered 200 more classes than last year in an effort to speed time to degree and generate more income for the school.

According to Daniels, there are ‘lots of opportunities” to cut costs’.

The problems are obvious and the ideas for solutions are plentiful, but can Purdue’s president lead the university to a successful implementation?

J. Paul Robinson, a former president of the faculty senate, said Mr. Daniels’s worth as a leader will be tied to his ability to prune that administrative bloat. “Let me put it this way,” Mr. Robinson said: “A blind man on a galloping horse at midnight with sunglasses on can see the problem. The question is, What can he do about it?”

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Douglas Belkin, “At Purdue, a Case Study in Cost Cuts”, Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2014 .

July 23, 2014

Sarah Lawrence College will rate itself on the value it provides students

by Grace

Sarah Lawrence College has developed a way to assess the value it offers its students.

… The faculty came up with six abilities they think every Sarah Lawrence graduate should have….

  1. Ability to think analytically about the material.
  2. Ability to express ideas effectively through written communication.
  3. Ability to exchange ideas effectively through oral communication.
  4. Ability to bring innovation to the work.
  5. Ability to envisage and carry through a project independently, with appropriate guidance.
  6. Ability to accept and act on critique to improve work.

These measures serve as an antidote to the Obama administration’s upcoming rating system, which will measure things like cost, graduation rates, and salaries of graduates.  Obama’s new system has generated controversy, particularly since poor scores could mean the loss of federal financial aid.

Sarah Lawrence developed a “web-based assessment platform, designed to measure student performance against these critical abilities”.  Advisors meet regularly with students to evaluate their progress.

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Students can learn if they’re getting “their money’s worth”.

That’s a different measure of the value of an education than, say, student loan debt or earnings after graduation — the sorts of things the Obama administration is considering as part of its ratings plan. Students and parents are right to ask if they’re getting their money’s worth, says the college’s president, Karen Lawrence. After financial aid, the average cost of a Sarah Lawrence education is almost $43,000 a year.

“People are worried about cost,” Lawrence says. “We understand that.”

And they’re worried about getting jobs after graduation. But she says the abilities that the new assessment measures—critical thinking and innovation and collaboration—are the same ones employers say they’re looking for.

I have a feeling every Sarah Lawrence graduate will be rated highly.

The idea behind Sarah Lawrence’s assessment is laudable, but I must say I’m a bit skeptical about the way they measure student performance.  Shouldn’t they have an objective third party doing the assessment?

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Amy Scott, “What do students actually learn in college?”, Marketplace, April 22, 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.

April 21, 2014

Downsizing trend hits higher education

by Grace

20140419.COCSorryClosed3Half of all universities and colleges may close within 15 years.

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has predicted that as many as half of the more than 4,000 universities and colleges in the U.S. may fail in the next 15 years. The growing acceptance of online learning means higher education is ripe for technological upheaval, he has said.

With budget problems “particularly acute at small, mid-tier private’ colleges“,  Moody’s anticipates a “death spiral” in failing institutions.

“What we’re concerned about is the death spiral — this continuing downward momentum for some institutions,” said Susan Fitzgerald, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service in New York. “We will see more closures than in the past.”

Moody’s, which rates more than 500 public and private nonprofit colleges and universities, downgraded an average of 28 institutions annually in the five years through 2013, more than double the average of 12 in the prior five-year period.

Falling enrollments are a problem.

Dozens of schools have seen drops of more than 10 percent in enrollment, according to Moody’s. As faculty and staff have been cut and programs closed, some students have faced a choice between transferring or finishing degrees that may have diminished value.

At Dowling College in New York a “dormitory is shuttered, as are a cafeteria, bookstore and some classrooms in the main academic building”.

Dowling, which got a failing grade for its financial resources from accreditors last month, epitomizes the growing plight of many small private colleges that depend almost entirely on tuition for revenue. It’s been five years since the recession ended and yet their finances are worsening. Soaring student debt, competition from online programs and poor job prospects for graduates are shrinking their applicant pools.

Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire will drop six majors.

Net tuition revenue fell 14 percent to $30.3 million last year from 2009 as Franklin Pierce boosted financial aid to attract freshmen and keep students from transferring. Standard & Poor’s cut the Rindge, New Hampshire-based school’s credit rating last year to B, five steps below investment grade, from BB. Moody’s reduced its rating to B3 from B1 the year prior.

Ashland University in Ohio cut its tuition.

Ashland University, a 136-year-old college in Ohio, reduced tuition by about $11,000 — and direct aid commensurately — for the coming school year, with the goal that a lower-tuition/lower-discount model will eliminate sticker shock and lure students. In November, Moody’s downgraded Ashland’s rating to Caa2, eight levels below investment grade, saying the probability it will default has increased after three years of enrollment declines.

As a strategy for survival, diversifying takes on a new meaning.

Some colleges are looking beyond belt-tightening for more permanent solutions. Morgan State University in Baltimore, a historically black college, is targeting more Hispanic applicants and those of other ethnicities, according to Moody’s. Chatham University in Pittsburgh, whose undergraduate program is women-only, said in February it was considering going co-ed to boost enrollment.

This just in:

Mid-Continent University, a private institution in Kentucky, will close June 30, KFVS 12 News reported….

Related:  Private colleges see declining enrollment (Cost of College)

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Michael McDonald, “Small U.S. Colleges Battle Death Spiral as Enrollment Drops”, Yahoo Finance, April 14, 2014.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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