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Learn from a student that has been there and done that

My first question to Rachel was “What do you wish you knew then that you know now?” Rachel, after all, is officially a veteran of the college admissions process. While she is busily adjusting to life after high school graduation she is actually thinking much more about what her life will be like in three months when she moves into her college dorm.

For Rachel it was a lengthy and sometimes stressful process. She started visiting colleges in her sophomore year. She took the most rigorous curriculum her high school offered, had stellar standardized test scores, participated in a variety of clubs, held leadership roles, got involved in community service, played an instrument, won awards, immersed herself in a foreign culture during her summers; in short – she did everything right.

Here are some snippets of my conversation with Rachel:

Lee – “What did you do right?”

Rachel– “I visited many colleges and applied to a good variety of schools – 3 safety, 1-2 target and 3-4 reach.”

Lee – “What did you wrong?”

Rachel – “I didn’t start essays or ask for letters of recommendation early enough. It was hard to write essays in the fall and still keep up with all the work during first semester. Some teachers had fulfilled their quota of letters of recommendation before the end of junior year, so waiting to ask as a senior was too late and I had to scramble.”

Lee – “Did you find any shortcuts or do you have any ideas to make the process run more smoothly for rising seniors?”

Rachel – “I was able to re-use several essays for schools a few times, although I did have to make significant adaptations.”

Lee – “Was it challenging at school with everyone asking where you’re applying?”

Rachel – “Yes, especially with juniors. They think they understand everything about the application process and believe that holding many leadership positions and getting straight A’s in AP classes guarantees students a spot in the most prestigious schools. They don’t understand that even for the most qualified students, the admissions process is still incredibly random. Some students don’t understand when seniors don’t get into top schools. I regret sharing my list of schools with all of my friends and I eventually decided to put my acceptance/rejection decisions on “lockdown” in April.”

Lee – “If you had high school to do all over again, what would you do differently?”

Rachel – “I don’t have many major regrets about high school, but I wish I had been more involved in clubs freshman year and selected activities that I knew I could continue for four years. I would also focus more on a few select clubs and not join every honor society just to be able to put it on an application. I always agreed with the “depth not breadth” argument but my position was confirmed when I actually started applying. As I began filling out applications, especially the Common Application, I realized how few spots there actually were to put extra-curricular activities, so being superficially involved in a ton of activities truly doesn’t help at all.”

Lee – “What would you do differently in terms of preparation for the application process?”

Rachel – “I would research standardized tests more; I think students focus more on the SAT and only take the ACT the one time in February or March when the state pays for it; I wish I had taken the ACT again, because I found the math section a better fit for my skills.”

Lee – “What was the biggest waste of time?”

Rachel – “Visiting some schools over the summer, some schools were completely empty, so I didn’t get a good sense of the atmosphere; others still had students. Families should check with admissions to see what kind of campus life is going on during the summer.”

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com

School Counselors Prepare Students for 21st Century Computational Thinking Skills

Counselors are at the forefront of opening doors to opportunities for all students. 

Counselors are at the forefront of opening doors to opportunities for all students. They collaborate “with stakeholders such as parents and guardians, teachers, administrators and community leaders to create learning environments that promote educational equity and success for every student” (ASCA School Counselor Competencies). It is crucial for educational leaders to recognize the impact and service school counselors have in every school community as stakeholders embrace engaging educational environments that support pathways to sustainable and rewarding post-secondary opportunities. 
Pop Quiz!What do these skills have in common?

  1. Analytical thinking and innovation
  2. Complex problem-solving
  3. Critical thinking and Analysis

 This list comes from The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report. These skills are in high demand by employers today. School counselors recognize that labor market trends in local, national, and global communities impact students. Counselors guide students toward viable careers with these trends in mind. In order to adequately prepare our students for sustainable careers and to ensure all students have access to learn, school counselors are bringing opportunity to those who are traditionally underrepresented in computer science (CS) classes and in computing professions. Counselors recognize that technology is changing every career. Engaging students and families in conversations about sustainable careers means talking about the intersection of CS with every vocation.  Did you know that the skills mentioned above are at the heart of computational thinking in CS classes and also areas of interest for school counselors’ student-focused ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors? These skills transcend the computer screen! Teaching them to all students integrates CS, school counseling goals, and life skills that can and should begin in elementary school and follow students throughout their academic career. This debunks the myth that a school counselor must be tech-savvy to impart these skills to students. Your school counselors are prepared and experienced in these concepts that will broaden the horizons of your students.  

Decomposition

One of the first components of computational thinking is decomposition. What does this mean and how does it relate to school counselors? Every day your school counselors are demonstrating this skill to students. The concept of breaking down a problem into smaller parts is a crucial component of a student’s ability to address an area of concern. As counselors, this type of modification shows up in 504 planning and I&RS committee meetings as a strategy we can use to help a student grasp challenging content or behaviors. Modeling decomposition with students allows for the acquisition of this skill which places them in a position of advantage when obstacles arise whether it be on a school project, a computer program, or a situation at home. For example, if a student is having difficulty in a class, the counselor and student break the problem down and view it from different angles. Is the student studying regularly, taking advantage of extra help sessions, prepared for class (both academically with supplies and ready to learn – not hungry, tired), know where to find resources, etc.? Breaking down the problem and considering a variety of possible contributing factors is the essence of decomposition.   

During pattern recognition in computational thinking, students learn to recognize trends and similarities. What worked successfully last time they ran into this problem?  What didn’t work? If students have run into this problem before, what did they learn that worked well or didn’t work that they can apply to this situation? In the scenario of a student struggling in a class, the student and counselor might reflect on how the student performed in this subject area the previous year. Is this possibly a new area of study in which the student lacks enough background experience? A counselor might meet with the students’ peers in the class to learn about their study habits, resources they use, and other strategies they employ. Identifying patterns of what has worked and not worked in the past along with identifying patterns of behavior in students who are doing well in the class provides a framework to create a collaborative plan for the struggling student. It also models a problem-solving strategy they can apply to other situations to support more positive outcomes.

Abstraction

Abstraction is about focusing on the most relevant aspects of a problem and not getting distracted by the red herrings. Rarely do students come to a school counselor with a clear, concise statement about the problem or view of a situation. Often there is a great deal of extra information that feels critical to the student. By taking a step back, counselors can help students focus on what is truly relevant to the problem. This challenge of sorting through details and distractions isn’t a problem relegated to children; it’s a human problem! We all struggle with this from time to time. Think of the last time you were late to work. You might have run through a list of frustrations that led to you being late, and some might have been legitimate problems to address (the alarm didn’t go off) while others might be annoying situational frustrations that may not relate to being late (Why does the dog always take so long to go to the bathroom on cold mornings?). Being able to tease out what is truly necessary to consider when solving a problem is not just a computational thinking skill, but it is also a critical life skill! School counselors view this as “stripping away the drama and pulling out the facts.” The key is to identify which aspects are truly relevant to solving the problem. 

Computational thinking also encompasses algorithm design, which is a step-by-step process for solving problems. Think of an algorithm as being like a recipe: very specific, measured ingredients combined in a clearly defined order. When counselors work with students on challenges, they develop a plan that involves a step-by-step process for addressing the obstacle and “debugging” or anticipating challenges and problem-solving. Within the creation of the plan, they need to provide for anticipated roadblocks.  How might that student address anticipated challenges? For example, a counselor might verbally “walk through” the student’s process of leaving period 1 class to arrive in period 2 class on time. Does the student stay behind and chat with the teacher or peers? Does the student circle back to the locker to pick up supplies or take a longer than necessary route to the next class? Creating a step-by-step “recipe” to get to class on time is a transferable skill for other life challenges. 

What are some next steps for collaborating with your school counselor, administration, and CS staff? 

Did you know that three out of five schools in the U.S. do not offer computing courses that include programming or coding, yet we know that computing jobs are the way of the future? “The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that by 2020 there will be more than 1.4 million computing-related job openings. At current rates, however, we can only fill about 30% of those jobs with U.S. computing bachelor’s grads”(Source: https://www.ncwit.org/infographic/3435). This Computer Science Professional Development Guide developed by Microsoft Edu and in collaboration with champions for broadening participation in computing offers a step-by-step guide about how education leaders can build teacher, school counselor, and administrator capacity to support equitable computer science education. NCWIT Counselors for Computing provides professional school counselors with information and resources they can use to support ALL students as they explore CS education and careers. The NCWIT Counselors for Computing “See Yourself in Computing” virtual reality (VR) campaign motivates students to ask, “How can I get started in CS?” Explore the free immersive content with your students using your computer, tablet, or with a VR headset.
 School counselors are champions for equity, advocating for a system that supports all students’ in accessing learning opportunities to guide them towards sustainable careers. They “demonstrate their belief that all students have the ability to learn by advocating for an education system that provides optimal learning environments for all students” (ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors). Preparing ALL students for post-secondary plans requires all educators to recognize and discuss how CS is woven through every career and how we can spark interest in sustainable careers across K–12. 

Additional Resources

Robot Resources offers a variety of printable posters NCWIT Counselors for ComputingASCA School Counselor CompetenciesASCA Position Statement, “The School Counselor and Career Development”  

About the Authors

Angela Cleveland is the Program Director for NCWIT’s Counselors for Computing which provides professional school counselors with information and resources they can use to support all students as they explore CS education and careers. Jennifer Correnti is the Director of School Counseling at Harrison High School and has been a counselor for 12 years. She serves as an NCWIT Counselor for Computing consultant and encourages school counselors to embrace their role as agents of change.

Many of your students are going into debt from using credit cards

Here is a tutorial you can share on how they work

ust swipe and sign, right? Well, there’s a lot more to how credit cards work than that, because with a credit card, you are essentially borrowing money from a bank that you will pay back at the end of the month.

How do I build credit?

If you’ve never had a credit card before, you’ll need to build up your credit. How to establish credit is somewhat of a Catch 22: You need a credit card to build credit, but you can’t get one without good credit. Luckily, you have a few options.

  1. Sign up for a joint credit card account with an established credit user
  2. Get a secured credit card (learn more about secured credit cards below)

Authorized user vs joint account holder

It’s important to note that there’s a big difference between an authorized account user and a joint account holder. Joint credit card account holders are like cosigners on loans. Both people can use the account, both are responsible for the debt and repayment affects both people’s credit history. By contrast, an authorized user is allowed to use the account, but they are not responsible for the debt. As a result, payments do not impact an authorized user’s credit history.

So, while becoming an authorized user can help you get comfortable using credit cards, it won’t help you build credit. If you ask a friend or family member to add you as an authorized user, keep this in mind. You can get some practice, but it won’t help you build credit.

If you’re learning to use credit, it’s best to pair an authorized user account with a secured credit card. This allows you to practice and learn from a seasoned credit user and build your credit.

How do credit cards work?

It’s important to think about what kind of card you need before applying for a new credit card. While you shouldn’t carry a balance from month to month, sometimes you can’t help it. If you plan on carrying a balance, make sure it is never above 20 percent of your credit limit. And only carry a balance on a credit card with a low interest rate. Also, make sure you are paying more than the minimum balance each month.

https://youtu.be/1r3fkEqQSgg

What is a secured credit card?

Credit cards come in two main flavors: secured and unsecured. With secured credit cards, you give the creditor a deposit for a specified amount. The creditor gives you a credit limit equal to that amount. Even though you sent them money, this is not a debit card situation. When you use the card, that amount isn’t debited from the money you sent. You have to pay off your purchases each month.

A secured card is great practice for someone who is building credit. This includes those new to the credit card game or individuals who have made bad credit decisions in the past. By using the account and paying it off each month on time, the credit reporting agencies will see that you are responsible with your credit account and your credit score will start to build.

What is an unsecured credit card?

Once you’ve built up your credit score, you can apply for an unsecured credit card. These cards don’t require a deposit and the credit card company will give you a credit limit based on your income as well as your credit score. Most of the credit cards on the market or that you see ads for are unsecured credit cards. They can offer rewards including travel points or cash back.

If you are applying for an unsecured credit card rewards card, it is important to pay off the balance each month, otherwise the interest that you are paying carrying a balance each month will negate all the rewards you are earning. Some rewards cards also have annual fees attached to them, so make sure you are using the card enough so that the fees are worth it.

Charge card vs credit card

Charge cards are few and far between nowadays. American Express is the only major issuer that distributes charge cards. The only real differences with a charge card and a credit card are the terms. When you sign up for a charge card, the main appeal is an implied lack of a spending limit. While these cards often say no pre-set spending limit, your charges can be limited based on your payment history, income and spending habits.

The other main difference in a charge card is that you are supposed to pay it off each month in full. This is actually the advice for credit cards as well, but for charge cards, it’s always been more of a rule. But even charge cards are starting to go the way of credit cards, as American Express offers a “Pay Over Time” option for certain purchases.

Most of the offers you will receive or apply for will be for credit cards and not charge cards. If you aren’t sure, make sure to read the fine print.

How do I use a credit card?

When using a credit card for the first time, make sure to call the number on the sticker on the front of the card and activate it. Also, make sure to set up an online account with your credit card issuer. Even if you prefer to receive paper statements, having an online account will allow you to view updated information about your account instantly and make changes if needed.

Decide how you plan on using your card: Are you going to use it for everyday purchases everywhere, at just one place or type of place? Once you decide, it’s time to make a purchase.

How do I make a purchase with a credit card?

  1. When you get to the checkout, swipe the card or place the chip side into the slot if you have an EMV chip credit card.
  2. Follow the prompts on the screen and sign if necessary. Nowadays, most purchases under $25 do not require a signature.
  3. Make sure to remove your card when the transaction is completed.

You don’t have to make a note of your spending on the card like you would in an old checkbook, it’s important to be mindful of how much you are spending on your card so you can anticipate the bill at the end of your billing cycle.

How do I pay my credit card bill?

At the end of your billing cycle, you will receive a bill from the credit card company for the amount you put on the card. This is the amount you need to pay back to the bank. By paying off your balance in full, you avoid any interest charges.

However, if you spent more than you can afford to pay off this month, you will carry a balance into the following month. It’s important to pay off more than the minimum balance if you can afford it to avoid paying months or even years of interest fees.

Thanks to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it passed the Credit CARD Act in 2009 which required issuers to make credit card billing statements easier to read. It also includes a section as to how long it would take you to pay off your debt if you only paid the minimum amount (and didn’t charge any more to the card). If you can’t pay off your balance in one month, it’s important to make a plan to pay it off over a few months’ time and not use the card for much in the interim to avoid hefty fees.

How does credit card interest work?

When you can’t pay off your credit card bill each month, you are charged interest on the amount you don’t pay off. The interest rate varies depending on your credit score, whether you got a promotional rate and how often they recalculate the rate if it is a variable card tied to an index. This is your annual percentage rate, or APR.

How much you pay depends on whether the issuer is calculating a daily rate or a monthly rate. If it calculates monthly, then you would take the APR and divide by 12. To figure out how much you will be paying in interest, take the balance that you have leftover, and multiply it by that number. If it is calculating daily, then you will need to instead divide the APR by 365 and then multiply by the number of days in your billing cycle (usually 30 days).

The interest will accrue as long as you carry a balance. Making minimum payments only increases the amount you pay on the money you originally borrowed. It’s important to pay off as much as you can each month.

Credit Card Security

When you use your credit card, it’s important to keep your credit card information safe. Many people wonder about the security of their credit card information this day and age. Hacking credit cards is rampant, especially online. So how do you keep your information secure?

One way that major credit card issuers helped to make your credit cards safer was by implementing EMV technology in credit cards, which stands for Europay, Mastercard and Visa. Also known as chip-and-pin or chip-and-sign technology, the computerized chip embedded in each card is much more difficult to gather information from when skimming a credit card.

Another way to keep your credit card information safe is to avoid saving your credit card information with too many websites. The more sites that have your information, the more vulnerable you are. Thankfully if your card is compromised, you are only liable at most for $50. New technology has also enabled credit card companies to freeze or even deny payments if they suspect suspicious activity on the card outside of your normal spending habits.

It’s important to keep track of your spending not just for budgeting, but also to avoid fraudulent attacks.

This blog was posted from Debt.com,LLC. Check them out at: https://www.debt.com/credit-card-debt/how-do-credit-cards-work/

Counselors Can Assist Students & Families to Plan Ahead to Help Them Save Big on College

Many students know that the path to college starts the minute they enter high school, putting together the classes, grades, activities and test scores that will get them into their dream college. But the path to affording college should start just as early, with high school counselors playing a vital in guiding families to take steps that could help them cut costs.

The rising cost of college makes it more important than ever to start conversations early about paying for college. On average, a family will pay $101,160 for four years at an in-state university and $203,600 for a private college, according to CollegeData.com. And that’s just for one child. Add in a second or third child and the cost can easily become a family’s largest investment in their lifetime.

Counselors can play a pivotal role in helping to bring those costs down for families. Unfortunately, according to a survey conducted by the College Board National Office for School Counselor Advocacy (NOSCA), many feel unprepared to do so.

Bringing in an expert early on to talk to students and their families about what they can do to cut college costs is one way counselors can help. Those programs can, and should, start as early as freshman year in high school. Counselors also can talk to families about some simple steps that can make a big difference for them down the road.

For parents, early planning can lead to a larger financial aid package. Since financial aid is based on a family’s Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, a family that takes steps to lower their EFC long before the time comes to fill out the FAFSA can reap big savings. For example, a small business owners can lower their EFC by holding assets in their business, rather than in personal accounts. An expert can offer other suggestions a small business owner can take to lower their EFC significantly by the time they have to fill out the FAFSA.

Counselors can also encourage students to build a strategic list of schools that looks beyond academics and school environment to include how the school determines a family’s EFC. Some schools, for example, factor in home equity when determining a student’s EFC, while others do not. With a little research, students can learn which schools use a formula that gives them the lowest EFC.

When talking about scholarships, counselors can change the focus from private scholarships to scholarship money given by the universities or colleges a student is interested in attending. Applying to private scholarships, which typically amount to awards of less than $2,000, may not be the best strategy for time-strapped students. Instead, they might want to focus on raising their test scores. Just raising an ACT test score by two points can result in a school awarding as much as $10,000 more in scholarship money. Some schools are very transparent, noting what GPAs and test scores trigger specific scholarship awards. Having a number to shoot for may make it easier for students to work harder in a class they’re struggling with or encourage them to retake the ACT of SAT to raise their score.

When it finally comes time to fill out the FAFSA, families can still take steps to boost their financial aid package and receive it in a timely fashion. Counselors can help by encouraging them to take these steps:

·        Complete and submit all the required forms on time. Some schools require forms in addition to the FAFSA, such as the CSS Profile. Know ahead of time what’s required and what the deadlines are.

·        Use the IRS data retrieval system to expedite the process and pay careful attention to correct spelling and wording. Doing so can result in students receiving their award letters sooner and avoid extra verification by schools, which can lead to delays.

·        If applying to a state school, list it first on the FAFSA. This will let students see state eligible grant money on award letters—something that might not happen if they list the school second or third.

Finally, students and their families should remember that no award is final. A change in financial circumstance, such as a parent losing a job or unexpected medical expenses, are both valid reasons to appeal. So, too, is when one school offers a larger financial aid package than another similarly-ranked school. Just remind families to first investigate whether a school has a specific appeals process before proceeding with an appeal. And encourage them to call in an expert if they’re unsure about how to navigate the process.

In the end, remind students that it’s not just about getting into that dream school, it’s also about being able to afford it. Encouraging families to start the college cost conversation early on can save a lot of tears—and money—when senior year finally rolls around.

 Jack Schacht is the founder of My College Planning Team, a consortium of academic consultants and financial aid specialists serving students and families in the Chicago area. www.MyCollegePlanningTeam.com

Colleges that have closed since 2016

Education Dive recently did a thorough evaluation of the Colleges that have closed since 2016. Click here to see the full list of nonprofit college closures since 2016.

The last few years have been tumultuous ones for colleges and universities in the U.S. Increased regulation and reduced enrollment continue to be among several factors contributing to the closure or consolidation of thousands of colleges and campuses around the country.

That consolidation also impacted the priorities of ones that remained open. Institutions are adding degrees and certificates in emerging tech fields such as artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, and dropping low-enrollment programs including some in the liberal arts. They’re also looking online, where they can reach more students with targeted subject matter.

That activity is ongoing and more is forecasted in the years ahead.

Small liberal arts colleges fight to stay open

Undergraduate enrollment is on the decline, reducing the tuition revenue many small colleges rely on for lack of a sizable endowment. Experts say the drop-off is due in part to a strong economy and projections of a cyclical decline among the college-age demographic. To help attract more students, colleges are offering them a bigger break on tuition.

A 2016 report from Ernst & Young affiliate the Parthenon Group found 800 colleges vulnerable to “critical strategic challenges” due to their small size, compared to a much smaller share of colleges with enrollments over 1,000. The report lists several risk factors for small colleges amid the current environment of consolidation in higher ed. Those include: enrolling fewer than 1,000 students; the absence of online programs; tuition increases greater than 8% and discounts higher than 35%; and depending on tuition for more than 85% of revenue.

In a review of more than 75 New England colleges enrolling more than 100 students and that had annual expenses of less than $100 million in 2012 and 2016, The Boston Globe found tuition accounted for 70% or more of revenue at 63 institutions. Harvard University, by comparison, got 21% of its revenue from tuition in 2017. Small liberal arts colleges have played an important role in the region’s economy and history, The Globe notes, which is partly why their closures tend to make headlines.

Tight budgets and small endowments factored into announcements by several New England colleges in recent months that they, too, would close. The 2018 closure of Mount Ida College, located near Boston, made headlines yet again this spring when a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by students alleging officials knew the college was in financial trouble and didn’t inform students of the situation until it abruptly shuttered in May following a failed merger attempt. The judge said the claims didn’t stand up to state law and that paying tuition in exchange for education “does not create a contract” between the institutions and students.

The spate of closures in the region prompted the state higher education board and an accreditor to increase oversight of their financial performance.

Not all colleges faced with the likelihood of closing end up doing so, however. Iowa Wesleyan University raised enough money from alumni and the community to stay open for the spring 2019 semester after officials said it might close due to financial difficulties amid enrollment declines.

Major private liberal arts college closures and consolidation, 2016-present

InstitutionStateYearDealDive Insight
American Jewish UniversityCA2018Closed (Temporarily) 
Burlington CollegeVT2016Closed 
College of New RochelleNY2019 (expected)Closed 
College of St. JosephVT2019Closed 
Concordia College AlabamaAL2018Closed 
Crossroads CollegeMN2016Closed 
Dowling CollegeNY2016Closed 
Grace UniversityNE2018Closed 
Green Mountain CollegeVT2019ClosedDive Insight
Hiwassee CollegeTN2019Closed 
John Wesley UniversityNC2018Merged (Piedmont International University) 
Marygrove CollegeMI2019Closed 
Marylhurst UniversityOR2018Closed 
Morthland CollegeIL2018Closed 
Mount Ida CollegeMA2018ClosedDive Insight
Newbury CollegeMA2019ClosedDive Insight
Saint Joseph’s CollegeIN2017Closed 
Shimer CollegeIL2017Merged (North Central College) 
Southern Vermont CollegeVY2019Closed 
St. Catharine CollegeKY2016Closed 
St. Gregory’s UniversityOK2017ClosedDive Insight
Trinity Lutheran CollegeWA2016Closed 

Institutions included on this list had one or more location close during the period. We did not consider satellite campuses.

Sources: Click here

Public systems consolidate 

Just as small colleges are undergoing major consolidation, so too are some larger university systems. Among the most high profile is the set of mergers underway within the University of Wisconsin System, which will consolidate 13 two-year colleges into seven four-year colleges. It’s the system’s biggest change since it formed in 1971, according to the Wisconsin State-Journal.

The University of Georgia System has been consolidating campuses for several years in a move to reduce operating costs and improve student outcomes. A trio of community colleges in Alabama, too, is consolidating into a single institution with a new name: Coastal Alabama Community College. Connecticut’s community colleges are also eyeing an administrative consolidation.

Slightly fewer than half of college mergers between 2010 and 2017 — roughly 40 across nine or more states — involved at least one public college, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline publication. Colleges face several challenges to successful mergers, however, including the potential for cultural mismatches, higher tuition from reduced local competition and challenges reconciling salaries of two-year college employees with the often-higher rates commanded by those at four-year institutions, Stateline reported.

Consolidation of individual colleges or entire systems is most successful when it’s part of a strategic plan and not a last-ditch effort to save an institution, according to a 2017 report from the research arm of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America. The report notes potential short-term costs include updating campus buildings, marketing the change and lost efficiencies despite the move to scale, and that gains pay out over the long term.

Major public college closures and consolidation, 2016-present

InstitutionStateYearDealDive Insight
Alabama Southern Community CollegeAL2016Merged (Faulkner State and Jefferson Davis community colleges)  
Armstrong State UniversityGA2017Merged (Georgia Southern University) 
Asnuntuck Community CollegeCT2023 (expected)Consolidating AdministrationDive Insight
Bainbridge State CollegeGA2017Merged (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College) 
Capital Community CollegeCT2023 (expected)Consolidating administrationDive Insight
Faulkner State Community CollegeAL2017Merged (Alabama Southern and Jefferson Davis community colleges) 
Gateway Community CollegeCT2023 (expected)Consolidating administrationDive Insight
Georgia Perimeter CollegeGA2016Merged (Georgia State University) 
Housatonic Community CollegeCT2023 (expected)Consolidating administration 
Jefferson Davis Community CollegeAL2016Merged (Faulkner State and Alabama Southern community colleges) 
Johnson State CollegeVT2018Merged (Lyndon State College) 
Lyndon State CollegeVT2018Merged (Johnson State College) 
Manchester Community CollegeCT2023 (expected)Consolidating administrationDive Insight
Middlesex Community CollegeCT2023 (expected)Consolidating administrationDive Insight
Naugatuck Valley Community CollegeCT2023 (expected)Consolidating administrationDive Insight
Northwestern Connecticut Community CollegeCT2023 (expected)Consolidating administrationDive Insight
Norwalk Community CollegeCT2023 (expected)Consolidating administrationDive Insight
Quinebaug Valley Community CollegeCT2023 (expected)Consolidating administrationDive Insight
Three Rivers Community CollegeCT2023 (expected)Consolidating administrationDive Insight
Tunxis Community CollegeCT2023 (expected)Consolidating administrationDive Insight
University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk CountyWI2020 (expected)Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Platteville) 
University of Wisconsin-Barron CountyWI2020 (expected)Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire) 
University of Wisconsin-Fond du LacWI2020 (expected)Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh) 
University of Wisconsin-Fox ValleyWI2020 (expected)Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh) 
University of Wisconsin-Marathon CountyWI2020 (expected)Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point) 
University of Wisconsin-MarshfieldWI2020 (expected)Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point) 
University of Wisconsin-RichlandWI2020 (expected)Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Platteville) 
University of Wisconsin-Rock CountyWI2020 (expected)Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater) 
University of Wisconsin-Washington CountyWI2020 (expected)Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) 
University of Wisconsin-WaukeshaWI2020 (expected)Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) 
Wichita Area Technical CollegeWI2018Merged (Wichita State University) 

Institutions included on this list had one or more location close during the period. We did not consider satellite campuses.

Sources: Click here

For-profits look for a way forward

The for-profit sector has been in a downward spiral since 2016, when the Obama administration increased its oversight and stripped federal recognition of the accreditor responsible for two large chains — ITT and Corinthian Colleges — whose collapses drew attention to issues of misrepresentation and poor student outcomes within the sector. That accreditor, ACICS, oversaw about 250 colleges in 2016, a figure that has since shrunk by roughly two-thirds with 61 closing and more than 100 finding new accreditors, according to a July 2018 report by the Center for American Progress.

More than 100 for-profit and career colleges closed between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years alone, while 20 nonprofit colleges shuttered during that period, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. And although the number of credentials issued increased 1.2% from 2012-13 to 2016-17, for-profits offered nearly 30% fewer than nonprofits.

The closures that have characterized the sector reared up again in late 2018 and early 2019 with the shuttering of for-profit colleges owned by three college operators: Education Corporation of America, Vatterott Educational Centers and the Dream Center. Combined, tens of thousands of students were affected. The closures’ quick succession drew renewed attention to concerns over how the department and accreditors monitor struggling colleges, and what safeguards protect students when they shut their doors.

Efforts by the U.S. Department of Education under Betsy DeVos to roll back or weaken some of the regulations governing the sector are underway, most recently with its move to permanently reinstate federal recognition of ACICS after DeVos temporarily restored it last year. That could breathe new life into several ACICS institutions that were unable to find new accreditors. DeVos’s Ed Department has also pledged to overhaul two key Obama-era regulations concerning for-profit colleges — borrower defense to repayment and gainful employment — though it missed a key deadline for doing so. It is now in the process of writing new rules for accreditation.

For-profit colleges have been taking advantage of lax oversight from the Ed Department to shed the sector’s tainted reputation and targeted regulation.

The biggest move yet involved the for-profit Kaplan University, whose acquisition by Purdue University was finalized in 2018 to form the framework of the nonprofit’s online education platform. And Grand Canyon University last year won approval to change status from a for-profit to a nonprofit institution, though it will operate under a for-profit parent that handles support services such as technology, marketing and financial aid. Critics say such moves allow for-profits to operate as nonprofits.

Other for-profit college operators are changing tack, dropping their colleges and picking up companies that can round out an educational services portfolio. Among them are Zovio, formerly Bridgepoint Education and parent of Ashford University, as well as Adtalem Global Education, which sold off DeVry University last year as it doubles down on professional education.

Several House Democrats, who won a majority in the 2018 midterm elections, have pledged to step up oversight of the Ed Department’s de-regulatory efforts. Industry observers expect more movement among for-profits through 2020, including nonprofit conversions and acquisitions.

Scholarships Available for your Minority Students

In addition to general awards based on location, discipline, merit, and financial need, many scholarships exist that specifically help minority students achieve their dreams of attending college. In addition to those highlighted below, students should conduct additional research to find funding opportunities that meet their needs.

Scholarships specifically available for students of Arab, Middle Eastern & North African descent:

  • AAWBC Scholarship The Arab American Women’s Business Council provides $1,000 scholarships to Arab American females pursuing business or related studies at the undergraduate level. Applications are due October 12.
  • American Federation of Ramallah Palestine Scholarship The AFRP offers this scholarship, which varies in amounts, to Palestinian and Palestinian American students who demonstrate financial need. Applications are due May 1.
  • Arab-American Scholarship The Network of Arab-American Professionals offers students $1,000 if they maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher and are of Arab heritage. Applications are due January 18.
  • Dr. Adawia Alousi Scholarship This award of up to $10,000 exists for Muslim women studying STEM topics, with special consideration given to immigrants and refugees. Applications are due in the spring.
  • Ibn Battuta Scholarship for Peace & Diplomacy The Qalam Center offers this scholarship for individuals to take part in a language intensive courses designed to teach them Arabic. The $4,200 semester-long scholarship covers all tuition and housing. Six deadlines exist throughout the year.
  • Ibn Sina Endowed Scholarship Wayne State University provides this award to Arab American students enrolled in the School of Medicine. The amount varies each year and students are automatically entered into consideration when submitting their admissions application.
  • Jack G. Shaheen Mass Communications Scholarship The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee offers this $2,500 scholarship to American citizens of Arab descent who are working towards a mass communications degree. Applications are due June 8.
  • Khalaf Family Scholarship The Center for Arab American Philanthropy oversees this award, which provides $2,500 to students of Arab American heritage are are studying engineering. Applications are due in the spring.
  • Lebanese American Heritage Center Scholarship This award, offered by the LAHC, provides funding to high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, with individual awards varying by amount. Applications are due by March 26.
  • Russell J. Ebeid Scholarship for Arab American Students The Center for Arab American Philanthropy awards $5,000 to students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in engineering or business studies at Kettering University. Applications are due February 17.

Scholarships available for Black/African American students:

  • Acel Moore Scholarship for Community Journalism The National Association of Black Journalists provides this $3,000 scholarship to undergraduate and graduate journalism majors. Applications are due April 16.
  • Agnes Jones Jackson Scholarship Administered by the NAACP, this $2,000 scholarship exists for members who demonstrate financial need and maintain GPAs of 2.5 or higher. Applications are due in the spring.
  • Blacks At Microsoft Scholarships Microsoft provides two renewable $5,000 scholarships per year to African American, African, and Ethiopian learners who plan to study a STEM or business topic. Applications are due March 8.
  • Center for Advancing Opportunity Undergraduate Research Scholarship Administered via the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, this $75,000 scholarship exists for full-time students attending HBCUs who study an approved discipline. Applications are due February 3.
  • David Porter Need-Based Diversity Scholarship IES Abroad offers a $5,000 award to African American students who want to study abroad but lack the funds to do so. Applications are due May 1 and November 1.
  • Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship This award, which gives preference to female minority students, is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and provides up to $42,000 annually. Applications are due December 17.
  • George Washington Carver Scholarship This academic fund supplies up to $10,000 to African American students enrolling in an approved subject at an HBCU. Applications are due in the spring.
  • Hercules Scholarship The Tom Joyner Foundation provides these awards to African American male high school graduates beginning their first year of studies at an HBCU. Scholarships offer a full ride, with applications due in the spring.
  • NABA Scholarships The National Association of Black Accountants provides 50 annual scholarships of up to $5,000 to African American learners working towards an accounting degree. Applications are due December 15.
  • NBMBAA Graduate Merit Scholarship The National Black MBA Association offers up to $10,000 per year to learners accepted to the University of Alabama’s MBA program. Applications are due January 31.

Scholarships available for Native Americans/Alaska natives:

  • American Indian College Fund Full Circle Scholarship Ford provides these scholarships to students with tribal affiliation who plan to enroll full-time in a diploma, associate, bachelor’s, or graduate degree. Amounts vary and applications are due May 31.
  • American Indian Undergraduate Scholarship The American Indian Education Fund provides this renewable $2,000 scholarship to individuals who can provide proof of tribal enrollment alongside ACT and GPA scores. Applications are due April 4.
  • DAR American Indian Scholarship The Daughters of the American Revolution offers this $4,000 award to Native Americans with 3.25 or higher GPAs and demonstrable financial need. Applications are due February 15.
  • Health Professions Scholarship The Indian Health Service makes available this scholarship to American Indian and Alaska Native students who plan to study a medicine-related topic at the bachelor’s level. Award amounts vary and applications are due May 15.
  • Lonnie Lee & Maria Elena Abernethy Native Americans in Engineering Scholarship This award, administered by the Society of Women Engineers, is given to undergraduate and graduate females of Native American descent. Awards total $2,900 and are renewable, with applications due February 5.
  • The Native American Scholarship The Continental Society Daughters of Indian Wars provides a $5,000 annual scholarship to enrolled tribal members who plan to work in a nation or tribe to provide education or social services. Applications are due June 15.
  • Science Post Graduate Scholarship The American Indian Graduate Center offers up to $20,000 to undergraduate and $30,000 to graduate students completing STEM degrees who are enrolled in a federally recognized tribe. Applications are due June 1.
  • Truman D. Picard Scholarship The Intertribal Timber Council offers this award to Native American students pursuing a degree in natural resources or a related topic. Learners may receive up to $2,500, with applications due March 15.
  • Udall Undergraduate Scholarship The Udall Foundation provides up to 50 scholarships of $7,000 each to Native American sophomores and juniors who have a demonstrated history of public service, leadership, and championing the interests and rights of American Indian nations. Applications are due March 4.
  • Wells Fargo Scholarship for Undergraduates This $5,000 award exists for full-time students of American Indian or Alaska Native heritage who maintain GPAs of 2.7 or higher. Applications are due May 1.

Scholarships available for Hispanic/Latino students:

  • Alliance/Merck Ciencia Hispanic Scholars Program The National Alliance for Hispanic Health oversees this $2,000 award to Hispanic learners pursuing a bachelor’s degree in a subject related to technology. Applications must be in by spring.
  • ALPFA Scholarship The Association of Latino Professionals for America offers scholarships to undergraduate and graduate learners working towards degrees in topics ranging from accounting and computer systems to engineering and education. Amounts vary, but applications are due June 8.
  • AMS Minority Scholarship The American Meteorological Society offers this award to Hispanic students working towards a degree in meteorological studies. Awards are for $6,000 over two years. Applications must be sent by February 8.
  • Aurelio “Larry” Jazo Migrant Scholarship The Geneseo Migrant Center provides $1,000 to undergraduate students who were employed as migrant farmworkers and recently migrated to Illinois. Applications are due February 1.
  • HENAAC Scholarship This award of up to $10,000, provided via Great Minds in STEM, exists for Hispanic STEM undergraduate students attending college on a full-time basis. Applications are due April 30.
  • The Hispanic Nurses Scholarship The National Association of Hispanic Nurses, in partnership with the United Health Foundation, offers Hispanic nurses in training a renewable $5,000 award for undergraduate studies. Applications are due April 3.
  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholarship HSF awards scholarships of up to $5,000 to individuals of Hispanic heritage who are pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees. They must meet GPA requirements and send applications by April 2.
  • LULAC National Scholarship This $2,000 award exists to help empower Latino learners working toward an undergraduate business degree. Applications are due in the spring.
  • Opportunity Scholarship TheDream.US provides scholarships for DREAMers/DACA recipients to attend college. The award covers up to $80,000 in expenses. Applications are due in the spring.
  • SHPE Scholarship The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers provided more than $250,000 in scholarships during the most recent round of awards and hopes to increase that number for next year. Applicants must be of Hispanic heritage and submit applications by June 15.

Scholarships available for Asian/Pacific Islander students:

  • Anna Chennault Scholarship The Asian American Journalists Association provides $5,000 scholarships to students of Asian American/Pacific Islander heritage. Applications are due by April 22.
  • Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship This award exists for individuals living at or below the poverty line who are first generation college students. Applications are due January 10, with those selected receiving varying amounts.
  • Banatao Family Filipino American Education Scholarship This scholarship provides up to $20,000 over four years to incoming students pursuing degrees in STEM topics. They must live in California and submit applications by February 26.
  • Central California Asian Pacific Women General Scholarship This award exists for Asian Pacific women from Fresno County, California who study at the undergraduate or graduate level. Applications are due April 30 and award amounts vary.
  • Chi Am Scholarship The Chi Am Circle Club provides this award to high school seniors of Asian descent who live in California. Awards range from $1,000 to $5,000 and applications are due March 9.
  • Lapiz Family Scholarship The Asian Pacific Fund administers this $2,000 renewable scholarship made available to undergraduate learners who are farm workers or the children of farm workers. Applications are due April 26.
  • Matt Fong Asian Americans in Public Finance Scholarship Incoming sophomores, juniors, or seniors studying accounting, political science, public policy, or business can apply to this non-renewable award of $5,000. Applications are due April 1.
  • The Tang Scholarship Provided via the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, this award exists for LGBTQ learners with at least 25 percent Asian/Pacific Islander heritage. Scholarship amounts vary and applications are due April 30.
  • UH-OHA Ho’ona’auao Higher Education Scholarship The University of Hawaii offers this scholarship to Native Hawaiians who are the first in their family to attend college. Undergraduates receive $1,000 and graduate students receive $3,000. Scholarship applications are due with general admissions applications.
  • USPAACC Scholarship The U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce provides 15-20 scholarships per year of up to $5,000. Applicants must write an essay, provide proof of financial need, and ask for letters of recommendation. Applications are due March 29.

This list of scholarships was compiled by Affordable Colleges Online. They have also put together a guide that outlines the steps to finding & getting scholarships and grants. Here is a link to that guide and the complete list of scholarships: https://www.affordablecollegesonline.org/financial-aid-for-minorities/

14 Ways Families Can Lower the Cost of College before Freshman Year

Early in my career as an investment banker to colleges and universities, I sat in on meetings with CFOs and Treasurers of hundreds of institutions. I learned tuition rates are not based on the services provided to students, nor the affordability for students or parents. In large, senior management simply analyzed their peer groups, and based future tuition rates on whether they wanted to be more or less expensive relative to their peers. And most of the time, they chose to be more expensive than their peers. So it’s no wonder college costs have outpaced inflation for decades and students are saddled with unnecessarily large debt balances.

The consequences of this debt on the students after graduation last for decades as graduates may be pressured to take on ill-suited jobs. They could also delay life goals such as buying a home, saving for retirement, and/or having a family. Parents can not only save money for college, but also lower the cost of college itself. Here are some ways to cut the cost of college so that doesn’t happen:

1) Understand that everyone pays a different price.  

One of the biggest misconceptions about paying for college is the idea of a fixed tuition. While tuition prices are fixed, the effective cost of college after tuition discounting through grants, scholarships and loans varies dramatically from student to student, and even between students who have similar financial resources as well as test scores. More so, tuition discounting increases over time. At the end of the day, a lot of schools have slots to fill and it’s not just “A” students getting the grants and scholarships.

2) Maximize your savings.

Strategies and Tips to Lower the Cost of College

Setting aside money in a 529 plan to get tax advantages is important. Under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), many states allow these accounts to be used for private schools as well. Thirty-four states offer a deduction and growth in these accounts is tax-free. But be careful about your state rules, as about 10 states require you to be the “owner” of the account to get a deduction on contributions. If a parent saved $50,000 into a 529 at birth, the family would have $10,000 more in the account by age 18 than if they put that money into a taxable brokerage account (assuming a 6% rate of return, a 25% marginal rate and 15% capital gains rate).

Some states even allow a one-day deduction loophole, wherein you could theoretically put aside money into a 529 on day one, receive a deduction on day 2 and then pay for college expenses out of that account on day 3. Another strategy would be to open a 529 before you even have kids with yourself as the beneficiary. You could change the beneficiary to the child when he or she is born to maximize compounding.

Another effective way to save for college is to fund Roth IRAs for children when they have “earned income” from summer jobs or work in the family business. Distributions from Roth IRAs for higher education are not subject to a 10% penalty under 59.5. Moreover, distributions for non higher education expenses are taken out principal-first and not earnings-first, so those might escape the 10% penalty.

3) Know your effective family contribution (EFC) before you step foot onto any campus.

We recommend that parents estimate their EFC years before they go through the college application process. EFC is a dollar figure that represents what a household should pay in college expenses over one year. Having a sense of EFC early on (i.e. freshman year of high school or even in middle school) can dispel some of the mystery of whether a family will qualify for need-based financial aid. This early analysis can help guide which strategies are best to save them money on the cost of college.

The EFC attaches certain percentages to parent-student income and assets to arrive at a specific number. If this number is above the cost of attendance (COA) for a particular school, the difference translates to need as well as eligibility for financial aid up to that need amount. The higher the cost of the school, the higher the need.

There are two categories of EFC calculations:

1) the FAFSA EFC, which is mainly for public universities and

2) the CSS/Profile EFC, which is mainly used by private universities.  

Both have some significant differences with the Profile EFC; most schools have their own variation on the calculation. For example, if you’re house-rich, but investment account-poor, you’ll likely qualify for more aid under the FAFSA than the CSS/Profile. Another difference is that the CSS Profile looks at the assets of the student’s siblings, while the FAFSA does not. Our suggestion is to calculate them both on EFC calculator on the College Board’s website or work your financial advisor to estimate your EFC.

Parents should know their financial aid strategy will be different, depending on whether based on their EFC they’ll likely be getting:

  • need-based aid (low and middle income students) — Need-based aid students should focus on the percentage of financial aid the school typically offers, the percentage of students percentage of students that get their full need met, and the average financial aid amount.  
  • merit aid (high income students) — Affluent families seeking merit aid should focus on the average merit scholarship, the percentage of students receive who receive merit aid, and the requirements to keep the merit aid.  
  • both need and merit aid — Between the College Board site and collegedata.com, parents can find out the information they need to find the most generous schools for their situation.

4) Everyone should fill out the FAFSA, carefully.

The most frequent mistake we see is families not filling out the FAFSA, because they don’t think they will qualify for financial aid. It helps determine whether they qualify for need-based as well as merit aid. And while financial aid isn’t necessarily first-come, first-serve, the sooner you apply, the more time you’ll have to analyze the various financial aid offers and potentially appeal for additional aid.  

Admittedly, the FAFSA can be confusing, but mistakes can cost you thousands of dollars, so filling it out correctly is imperative. Even seemingly simple questions, like questions on household size, can be entered incorrectly and cost families money. For example, an unborn child, or an uncle or grandparent living in the home can increase the household size and qualify your family for more financial aid.

Other common errors we see are families failing to exclude home equity as an asset, divorced parents putting both of their assets and income instead of just the custodial parent, mistakenly including retirement accounts (IRAs, 401K, Roth IRAs, etc.) as investments, and including the value of a small business when they have fewer than 100 employees. Also, 529’s should not be listed as a parental asset, not that of the child.

As parents move into the base year for applying for financial aid for the first time, i.e. the prior-prior calendar year of your child’s freshman year enrollment, there are a few financial transactions parents should probably avoid. We’ve seen IRA rollovers or Roth IRA conversions mistakenly be counted as income in the FAFSA, so it’s probably best just to avoid them altogether during this period. As well, any sort of IRA distribution should be reconsidered, given it would count as additional income under the FAFSA formula.

5) Carefully consider CSS/Profile Strategies.

For CSS/Profile schools that include home equity in their EFC calculation, special attention should be paid to the home valuation. Using an appraisal value could unnecessarily lower your chances for financial aid, so we suggest using the federal housing index, typically far less than market value. If you have a lot of equity in your home, consider focusing on just FAFSA schools.

6) Put in the prep work, plus other extracurriculars.

Higher test scores can translate into savings on the cost of college. It’s obvious advice, but SAT review courses work and there even free ones online. Students should take the SAT more than once since college admissions committees take the highest score into account.  

Most people know AP courses can count as college credit and save on the cost of college, but another option is CLEP testing. These courses allow students to test out of certain subjects for college credit.

And, while SAT scores and grades dramatically impact the net cost of college, packaging a student correctly can also save on the cost of college. Significant community service, multiple on-campus visits, and/or leadership positions in clubs that match areas of study can make prospective students more attractive to admission directors as they look to build a diverse, well-rounded student body.

7) Focus on greater sources of college aid.

Annually, the federal government, schools and private scholarship distributes $125 billion in student aid. But private scholarships account for only 13% of aid given and most of these scholarships are $1,000 or less. We guide parents into focusing most of their time and energy on identifying the right schools for their children to apply to and receiving aid from the colleges themselves. Focusing primarily on private scholarships can take away from valuable time in the critical decision period where financial aid offers need to be evaluated, and potentially appealed in the spring.

If you do have time to apply for private scholarships, we recommend focusing on local scholarships, many of which are not posted on the large scholarship databases. However, if you do garner a private scholarship, recognize it might end up being offset by a decrease in aid from the school itself. Even worse, the school might decrease the grant portion of its financial aid package and not the loan portion. If this happens, we recommend writing to them directly and requesting to reduce the loan portion of their financial aid package and not the grant portion. A private scholarship doesn’t hurt an high income student, since it won’t replace merit aid from the school.

8) Research the graduate rates and the potential return on investment of prospective colleges and universities to save you thousands dollars.

Parents should research the four year graduation rates when creating a universe of schools to apply to. There are significant differences in graduation rates among similar schools. One sure way to add 25% to the total cost of college is for a student to graduate in five years instead of four years. In our view, low graduation rates are more of an institutional issue than as a result of laziness.

Parents and students can analyze their potential return on college investment by looking at expected financial outcomes of the schools they’re looking at. Parents should know the value of a degree and major, and what internship and job placement opportunities are available for graduates. Research shows brand names are often overrated and overpaid. There are vast differences in quality among departments, even at brand name schools. A Stanford study looked at the ineffectiveness of rankings on success and this article further explores how to dig deeper than just the rankings.

We recommend looking at schools that go out of their way to secure high-paying jobs after graduation. There are several resources online for parents, such as Payscale.com, that can show return on investment by major (educatetocareer.org and collegescorecard.ed.gov are also helpful).  

9) Apply to schools that compete against each other.

As students and parents narrow the universe of schools to apply to, we recommend they garner a sense of how financial aid is offered at prospective schools, and how generous those gifts are (i.e. % of student need met, average need-based grant, and % of students offered aid). We recommend looking into which schools compete for the same students and consider applying to a handful of them to potentially leverage offers against each other later in the process.

10) Use net price calculators (NPC) to see which schools will give them the most aid.

All schools that participate in federal aid programs are required to have net price calculators on their websites. Parents can use these calculators to get a better sense of how much how much aid a school will offer — well in advance of application deadlines. Some calculators will ask detailed financial questions, while others will ask just a few questions. While we recommend that parents calculate their estimated EFC as early as middle school, you won’t be able to use NPCs effective until around sophomore year since NPC need student academic info.

Our experience shows the more detailed the calculator, the more accurate it is. Parents can also change variables, like SAT scores, in the calculators to see how much, if any, the net price of the school changes. Then, one could potentially quantify how much that expensive SAT prep course could save you in financial aid in the longer run. Additionally, families with large home equity relative to their total net worth should run the calculators with and without home equity to get a sense of which schools will penalize them the most and which ones won’t for having such a valuable home.

11) Budget for your retirement, not just your child’s college years.

We see it again and again: parents struggle to stay on track for their own retirement after putting their kids through college. The biggest issues arise when kids get to choose whatever school they want to go to, regardless of cost and/or the expected career economic payoff after graduation.  

We recommend parents work with their financial planner or CPA to run projections, taking into account their income, expenses, assets, debts and an expected college budget to see if they are on track for retirement and paying for college. If the margin of error to accomplish both retirement and paying for college is too thin, then they should lower the budget for college and look primarily at colleges within that budget. When faced between an expected shortfall and funding an expensive college education for their kids and funding retirement, many parents choose funding college at the expense of their retirement. We think this is a huge mistake, since running out of money in retirement is worse than not being able to attend a student’s dream college. We highly encourage parents to say no to dream colleges out of their budget and not succumb to pressure from their 17-year-old child — if it means jeopardizing their own financial stability.

12) Recognize repositioning assets to maximize financial aid is probably a terrible idea.

We see many “financial advisors” advocating for dramatic asset repositioning, often times to the detriment of parents’ financial well-being. Yes, you can potentially lower your EFC by converting your brokerage assets to annuities or cash value insurance life insurance, but you’ll like pay more in fees than receive in college savings by doing so. Even worse, you could spend all those fees and effort in making those changes, but it could backfire if your child ends up going to an out of state public school that won’t give aid to out of state students or a private school that only gives loans.

There are certain cases where asset positioning might work. However, we recommend deliberate discovery on what the EFC change would be, and even run the changes through net price calculators on a few school. One of the surest asset strategies is to improve financial aid eligibility down the road by maximizing contributions to retirement plans and IRAs, since this money doesn’t apply towards the FAFSA calculation. (Here’s an article of ours on pro-active financial aid maximization strategies, including moving money out of the child’s name, paying off credit card debt, and spending the student’s fund balances first).

13) Leverage financial aid offers to save money.

When financial aid letters come in, most families either accept them and move forward, or decline them to choose a different school. This is a big mistake. In our experience, schools often low-ball parents with their initial offers. We recommend researching what the average need-based and non need-based awards are, and compare your own award against the average. Contrast the school’s average test scores against the student’s test scores. If the award is less than the average, we suggest the student directly appeal the offer in writing (not the parent). Moreover, if the offer is in line with the averages, but student’s test scores are higher than the the average, the student should appeal in this situation as well. Most people see test scores as tools to getting admitted to college, but they can be tools to save money as well.

If you have offers from colleges the target school competes with or have had a change in financial circumstances since the FAFSA was filed, we recommend you also include that information in the appeal letter. A detailed letter about a serious medical issue, a job loss, or other major change in financial circumstances could persuade the school to offer more aid.

For families that can’t pay full price for college, we recommend students avoid early decision all together and consider early action instead. For students that have applied via early decision, your chances of negotiating a better offer are probably low.  

14) Choose wisely on loan decisions.

The stakes are high when it comes to taking on debt. There’s over $1.5 trillion of outstanding student loan debt. Every $50,000 of student loan debt translates to approximately a $550 payment per month for a decade after graduation. If students save and invest that money instead, they’d have about one million dollars by the time they retire (assuming an investment return of 7.5%). We recommend that families stay away from parent plus loans, which have high interest rates and upfront fees. As a rule of thumb, students should take on no more debt than their expected first year starting income in the major at the college they choose. For most parents, we advocate not taking on more student loan debt than their gross income if they are more than 10 years away from retirement. If they are five years away from retirement, they should probably limit student debt to no more than half their gross income.

The best type of loans to take on are the subsidized loan, which don’t accrue interest while the student is in school. For affluent parents that are footing the bill for college, we recommend taking on these loans, investing the proceeds and then paying the loans off upon graduation.  

This post was published by David Flores Wilson of Planning to Wealth.

David Flores Wilson, CFP®, CFA is a New York City-based Certified College Financial Consultant & Wealth Advisor at Watts Capital. He can be reached at dwilson@planningtowealth.com.

The frustrating reason college students miss out on the most suitable federal-aid loans

A new study sheds light on how the complicated design of student-aid programs affects borrowing decisions

As the student-loan debt bubble grows, lawmakers and consumer advocates are pushing for better counseling to help students make better-informed borrowing decisions.

But as a new working paper circulated Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows, counseling can have a dramatic effect on the choices these students make — and not always in a beneficial way.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Maryland examined how students make decisions regarding the size of their potential loan.

The researchers performed a field experiment with students attending a large, anonymous community college. All students at the school were offered the maximum amount of eligible federal-loan aid.

The financial-aid office then identified students who had not made a loan choice by August — these students were randomly sorted into different groups, and each group received different information regarding student loans.

On the other hand, for some students who didn’t ever choose a financial-aid package because of the overwhelming choices that were available, their inaction could end up being beneficial, because it could help them avoid debt.

Students who received more information on what past students had borrowed became overwhelmed by too many options, the researchers said. Students who were unfamiliar with the borrowing process and students who had worse grades were more prone to such information overload.

Here’s what they found:

• Of the students sorted into the control group that received no email communication, 14% took out a loan, and 12% borrowed the maximum amount.

• Other students, meanwhile, received emails citing either the unconditional ($800) or conditional ($3,000) average annual amount that past students had borrowed — these amounts both being lower than the maximum that students were offered in loans. They were 11% less likely to take out any loans at all after getting that information.

• A third group of students was sent an email simply stating that a student could borrow an amount other than what they were offered. This information was shown to have no effect on how likely they were to borrow. “Simply providing information may not be sufficient to improve student outcomes,” the researchers wrote.

This study aligns with existing research pointing to how important it is to be careful when designing student-loan packages.

A study distributed last November found that students are far more inclined to opt for the student-loan repayment plan they are offered by default, even if it’s not the plan best suited to their financial situation.

And a growing number of consumer advocates are now arguing that the ballooning student-loan debt isn’t necessarily students’ fault. Instead, they argue that existing policies have pushed people toward debt and allowed the student-loan industry to grow and take advantage of students.

This blog post was written by Jacob Passy on Marketwatch

A new way of helping students pay for college: Give them corporate jobs

Some undergrads are answering customer service calls for Microsoft and other companies

The Hechinger Report recently reported that more students are working for Corporations to help pay for College doing service jobs.

More than 300 University of Utah students are working for Microsoft answering service calls arranged by a nonprofit called Education at Work.

Founded by a call center executive, EAW sets up partnerships between universities and large employers to provide jobs like these. The employers get reliable employees and prospective hires while the universities can offer students a novel way to work for tuition and keep their loan debt low.

As students struggle with college costs and the strain of balancing work and school, Education at Work provides a little-noticed new way of leveraging corporate America’s thirst for skilled talent and colleges’ desire to tout how well they prepare young people for careers. The nonprofit employed 488 students on four campuses last year and has plans to expand to 1,521 by 2021. EAW’s University of Utah graduates end up with half the student loan debt of their peers, the organization reports.

Education at Work has similar arrangements with Arizona State University, Northern Kentucky University and Ohio’s Mount St. Joseph University. The companies pay EAW, which then pays the student workers, while the universities provide the office space. The University of Utah spends about $600,000 a year for the lease, utilities and janitorial services for the three floors Education at Work occupies in the downtown Salt Lake City building.

Students typically work 16 to 20 hours a week through EAW, the upper limit of what some experts say is acceptable during college; research by an offshoot of the organization that administers the ACT college admissions test has found that students who work more than 15 hours a week are more likely to fall behind in their academic progress and to graduate on time.

As for the quality of the students’ work, Scott Blevins, a senior vice president at EAW said the Salt Lake City office has “one of the highest customer satisfaction results” Microsoft has seen on the consumer side of its business.

Accustomed to hitting the books daily for their classes, Hedrick said, students learn faster than traditional call-center employees.

For an age group more at ease typing into a phone than speaking, the EAW experience may help strengthen office skills. In fact, students are expected to leave their phones in lockers before starting their shifts.

The full story was published at Hechinger Report here: https://hechingerreport.org/a-new-way-of-helping-students-pay-for-college-give-them-corporate-jobs/

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