Archive for ‘college search and selection’

March 17, 2015

Is your college at risk for closing?

by Grace

The closing of Sweet Briar College caught many students and potential students by surprise, disrupting their plans and creating uncertainties in carefully laid-out plans of how to pay for college.  No one wants to be in that situation, and the Washington Post offers tips on “How To Spot A College About To Go Out Of Business”.

Applicants should try to know as much as possible about the financial strength of the schools they are considering. One-third of all colleges and universities in the United States face a financial future that is significantly weaker than before the 2008 recession and are on an unsustainable fiscal path, according to an analysis published in 2012 by Bain & Company. Another quarter of colleges find themselves at serious risk of joining them.

Possible indicators of diminished financial strength:

  • Lowered bond ratings
  • Growing tuition discount rate
  • Failure in meeting enrollment targets
  • Increased debt load
  • Frequent changes in leadership positions

Smaller colleges are at higher risk for closing.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult for the smallest colleges to compete for students, and any college with fewer than about 1,500 students is particularly at risk for closing,” he told me. “Coming up 50 students short in an incoming class would be a rounding error for large colleges, but potentially devastating for a college with only 300 first-year students.”

Even if a college is not forced to close its doors, financial stress can affect students if it means staff cuts, limiting course options, inadequate building maintenance, and more.  So it’s a good idea to include financial strength to the components to consider when selecting a college list.

 Related:  “Downsizing trend hits higher education”

———

Jeffrey J. Selingo, “How to spot a college about to go out of business”, Washington Post, March 11, 2015.

March 4, 2015

Can we afford this college?

by Grace

One of the most basic questions during the college planning process is often one of the hardest for a family to answer.

Can we afford this college?

The hard part is usually not in knowing what you can afford to pay, but in trying to find what the net cost of attendance will be for your child.  Here’s a three-step process that may help you answer this question.

  1. Run the Net Price Calculator
  2. Check the college website to find answers to the College Board “dirty dozen” questions
  3. Contact the school’s financial aid administrator


1.  Run the Net Price Calculator (NPC)

The NPC is an online tool that is a useful first step in comparing affordability.  Every college website has a calculator, which typically requires entering family financial information such as income and assets before the estimated net price of attending is generated.  Remember, this is an estimate and may not produce accurate results for business owners and other situations.  Proceed with caution, and check for online resources like the CollegeBoard tip sheet to help in the process.

2.  Check the college website to find answers to the College Board “dirty dozen” questions

A list of 12 questions to get you started on gathering information about a school’s financial aid policies is provided by the CollegeBoard.  In my experience, the answers to most of these questions can usually be found on college websites.  Going through these questions often prompts families to consider other important questions about college costs.

3.  Contact the school’s financial aid administrator

Okay, so not all your answers about costs and financial aid were easily found on the college website or other online resources?  Contact the college’s financial aid office and get the information directly from them.  They should be able to give you information rather quickly, and if they don’t it might be an indication of how transparent and helpful they are in other situations.

For organized families, it’s not a bad idea to create a spreadsheet that can capture important information and allow for efficient comparisons.

February 27, 2015

So you’re interested in a career in hotel and resort management?

by Grace

What is it like to manage a hotel, and what kind of background is needed for this career?

Here’s the story of a hotel manager who does not have a college degree, but who worked his way up from his first job as a valet.

I’m in my late twenties and I work at a major 150+ room hotel in a major city in Louisiana. My official title is “Operations Manager.” I’ve been working in hotels since 2007, first as a valet and bellman for two years at a 200 room corporately-owned resort in coastal Alabama, then at the front desk at a smaller independent hotel. After that I was a front desk agent at a 300 room corporate hotel in Dallas where I was promoted to front desk manager, and finally I moved to Louisiana a year ago. I started at my current hotel as front desk manager and was promoted to Operations Manager in a couple of months. I’ve been at this hotel for one year.

A college degree may be the preferred way to enter this field, but another way is through “a beastly work ethic”.

To get my first hotel job I just walked in and applied. It’s easy to get an entry level position. To be an Operations Manager, you usually need a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management/Business or, like me, a beastly work ethic, willingness to go above and beyond expectations, work long hours, and volunteer to take on tasks around the hotel that go outside of your job description.

A degree can offer specialization in various areas, including travel and tourism.

Hospitality management, or hospitality administration, is a large field with an array of majors. Depending on your interest and skills, you can pursue degrees centered on hotel management, travel and tourism, conference or event management, the restaurant industry and more. A course of study can cover everything from business to food science to botany, and internships and assistantships are typical components as well.

U.S. News offers information about hospitality management scholarships.

TheBestSchools.org* ranked hospitality management four-year college programs, including these top five:

  1. Cornell University, School of Hotel Administration
  2. Michigan State University, School of Hospitality Business
  3. University of Nevada at Las Vegas, William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration
  4. Fairleigh Dickinson University, International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
  5. Virginia Tech, Pamplin College of Business, Dept. of Hospitality and Tourism Management

An associate’s degree in hospitality management is another way to prepare for a career in this field.

The bad news is that competition is tough for the best jobs.

Job growth in management positions is projected to show little or no growth over the next several years, even though growth in tourism and travel is predicted to be robust.  Like many other segments of the economy, the hospitality industry is streamlining operations, leading to scaled-back staffing.  Median salary in 2012 was $46,810.

In New York, SUNY at Delhi is a state school that offers a BBA Hospitality Management: Hotel and Resort Management.  Their students can participate in the Walt Disney College Program.

… Through this program, students work at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, for six months in a unique working/learning experience. Students can now earn SUNY Delhi course credit for the Disney courses offered as part of this program while they are working at Disney. Any student interested in this special program option should discuss it with his/her advisor early in their Delhi career. Disney courses include Communications, Leadership, Hospitality Management, Human Resources Management, Disney Marketing U, and Disney Experiential Learning.

It sounds like a good program for the right type of students, but I wonder if they are the target of jokes about their “Mickey Mouse” degree.

* ADDED:  Thebestcolleges.org doesn’t disclose its ranking method, but their list can be a starting place to find colleges that offer hospitality management major.  The College Board is another resource to use for finding and evaluating schools.

———

Andy Orin, “Career Spotlight: What I Do as a Hotel Manager”, Lifehacker, January 20, 2015.

Matt Konrad, “Check Into These Hospitality Management Scholarships”, U.S. News, March 20, 2014.

February 17, 2015

Online master’s degrees in education have gone mainstream

by Grace

… As online programs have grown in popularity, online master’s in education degrees have become more acceptable, experts say….

In some cases, Horn says, ​schools don’t even indicate the mode of instruction on degrees and transcripts, which means school officials only see the program or school name anyway.​

Even in cases where an online degree is obvious, it rarely matters in public school districts, experts say. In the K-12 world, at least, online master’s degrees in education are so common that employers don’t think of them much at all​, Horn says. Those in hiring positions who have been to school recently have taken a blended or fully online course, so they know the classes can be just as rigorous as their on-campus counterparts.

Of course, students must cover the basics in selecting their online provider, making sure the school is accredited and that the program will lead to the desired state license.

Best Online Graduate Education Programs — U.S. News & World Report

  1. University of Houston — Houston, TX
  2. Florida State University — Tallahassee, FL
  3. Northern Illinois University — DeKalb, IL
  4. Pennsylvania State University—World Campus — University Park, PA

———

Devon Haynie, “What Employers Think of Your Online Master’s in Education”, US News & World Report, Feb. 13, 2015.

Tags:
November 13, 2014

A reminder to look at net costs when comparing colleges

by Grace

Families should look at the net costs, after financial aid of all types, when assessing potential colleges.

Parents comparing college costs would be doing themselves and their kids a huge disservice if they just pay attention to listed tuition prices. What really matters is how much the school will cost you after financial aid and outside scholarships. And frankly some schools offer more scholarships than others….

Reyna Gobel offers a three-step method for getting started on a college list.

1. Have your son or daughter gather a list of 10 schools they’re interested in attending….

2. Use the net price calculators on each school’s website….

3. Talk to the high school counselor for your teen….

Net price calculators are imperfect estimators, so be aware of the cases where they are more likely to produce inaccurate results.

Related:  Are you eligible for a college tuition discount?

———

Reyna Gobel, “Why Applying to Schools Based on Tuition Prices Can Cost Families Money”, Forbes, 8/31/2014.

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.

———

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.

———

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

Tags:
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.

20140803.COCNPCForbes1

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.

———

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”.

———

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

20140731.COCIvyLeague2014Apps3

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”.

———

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

Tags:
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 213 other followers

%d bloggers like this: