FAFSA Doesn’t Budge Even With Nudge

Inside Higher Ed: “A study by economists at five universities, released this month by the National Bureau for Economic Research, suggests that consistently nudging incoming and current college students to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) had no effect on college enrollment or financial aid recipient rates. Researchers tested a campaign on two distinct groups of students — high school seniors who applied to college using the Common Application and college students of all levels (incoming, applied but did not enroll, currently enrolled and dropouts) who applied within an undisclosed large state system.”

“Previous research has shown the success of nudging on a smaller scale from sources familiar to students, like advisers or local community organizations, Rosinger said. But for this study, the researchers tested whether nudging would be effective through state- and national-level organizations with broader reaches, like the Common Application, which is one possible reason the outreach didn’t garner results … Another possible explanation for the null results, the study argues, is that information about FAFSA submission is distributed more widely by other sources than in the past, and students don’t need the additional information or assistance these nudges attempted to provide.”

“Nudging efforts are particularly aimed to provide support that’s absent when disadvantaged students’ parents or high schools are not as involved in the college application process … but text message reminders are much less effective than sitting down with an adult to complete the FAFSA.”

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When Colleges Become Universities

Boston Globe: “Boston College and Dartmouth College are well-known for both their undergraduate and graduate degree programs, but neither has expressed interest in a university makeover. But many smaller colleges don’t have that widespread reputation, and this is a way to stand out, college presidents said. ‘We’re laying the foundation for future growth and sustainability in the face of the challenges,’ said Francesco Cesareo, the president of Assumption College … Assumption will be restructuring and expanding its programs into specific schools, adding administrative positions, such as deans, to the campus, and expanding its athletics offerings, as part of the university conversion.”

“Overseas students, who are appealing to institutions since they pay more to attend, are familiar with the university label, while colleges suggest more vocational-type education in many countries, experts said. That can make it more difficult for American colleges to explain their value and offerings when they are trying to recruit internationally.’

“For Simmons University, the transformation of its campus into four distinct colleges has helped recruit a higher caliber of administrators and leaders to the school … Whether it will attract more students, bring in more money, and ultimately help the university withstand the fiscal and demographic pressures is less certain.”

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Syracuse Pushes Back on ‘Party School’ Ranking

NY Post: “Syracuse University is the nation’s top college — when it comes to partying. The Orange earned the high marks based on a survey of 140,000 students by the Princeton Review … The review, available this week, ranked the schools based on drug and alcohol use, study time and Greek life. In all, the schools are judged under 58 separate categories, with Syracuse placing second in the ‘lots of hard liquor’ category and eighth in ‘lots of beer’ — not that it was the only school where students were hitting the bottle instead of the books … The University of Alabama, the University of Delaware, West Virginia University and Tulane University ranked second through fifth, respectively.”

“The party tag didn’t sit too well with Syracuse officials, who said in a statement that the Princeton Review missed the mark. ‘By all measures, our student experience is rooted in the programs and services available to facilitate both personal and professional success — while at Syracuse University and beyond,’ the statement said. The school said the Princeton party list is not ‘a reflection of our distinctive approach to education.'”

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Top 10 Schools for Financial Aid

CNBC: “Yes, annual tuition plus room and board at four-year, private universities is much higher — $48,510, on average — compared to public institutions — at just $21,370 — in the current academic year, according to the College Board. However, about two-thirds of all full-time students receive aid, which can bring the sticker price significantly down … The Princeton Review ranked colleges by how much financial aid is awarded and how satisfied students are with their packages. The report is based on data collected from fall 2018 through summer 2019.”

“The top schools for financial aid are all private and have sky-high sticker prices, yet their very generous aid packages make them surprisingly affordable.” The top 10 are: Bowdoin, Vanderbilt, Washington University in St. Louis, Princeton, Yale, Rice, Grinnell, Thomas Aquinas, Vassar, and Gettysburg.”

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Which Colleges Have the Coolest Dorms?

Business Insider: “With the price of college rising, some schools around the country are trying entice new students with apartment style living, fancy recreational facilities, and even free laundry.” For example: “All first- and second-year Santa Clara students are required to live in what Santa Clara calls, ‘Residential Learning Communities’ … The eight Residential Learning Centers each have their own theme, like ‘innovation and integrity,’ or ‘service and community.’ These themes are meant to instill a sense of community and identity to each of the dorms. For juniors and seniors, the school offers luxury University Villas, so you’ll never have to travel far to get to class.”

“By simply using an app, students living in Rice University’s dorms can save precious time … and have their clothes washed, dried, and folded at no cost. Upon move in, students receive a large anti-bacterial laundry bag with a barcode that lets the students track their clothes along their path to cleanliness … Most Bowdoin first years will initially live in underclass residence halls, but they’re all encouraged to eventually apply to one of the school’s eight College Houses. Described as ‘the living room’ of campus, the houses host social programs and mentorship opportunities throughout the year.”

“Students at Scripps College are treated to a refined living experience. Many of the ten residence halls on campus are furnished with ornate furniture and regal carpets. Some of the halls have outdoor communal areas where students can socialize around red tiled lined fountains or hang out around outdoor balconies. Several of the residence halls even have living rooms with communal pianos … Bennington takes the idea of a cramped, institutionalized dorm room and throws it out the window, opting instead for ‘houses’ of 30 to to 45 students. Each house includes a full living room, kitchen, and washers and dryers. Most of the homes even have cozy fireplaces.”

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Financial Aid Can Change Over Time

MarketWatch: “Grants and scholarships are the best ways to pay for college because you don’t have to repay them. But if you chose a college because it offered you the most free money, your final bill may end up bigger than you thought.” For example: “All of the scholarships listed on your financial-aid award letter may not be available to you next year … some schools award incoming freshmen a one-time scholarship for visiting the college’s campus or interviewing with the school … Other scholarships are renewable if you meet specific requirements. These may include maintaining a particular grade point average, choosing a certain major or following the school’s code of conduct. Review your scholarships to see which are renewable, and make sure you meet their terms.”

” Typically, schools aspire to maintain overall awards from year to year … But the types of financial aid within that award may change. For example, students have higher federal student loan limits after their first year in school. To account for this, a college could replace a grant with a loan of an equal amount for your sophomore year … Other changes to your financial circumstances could lead to you losing aid altogether. For example, say your older sibling graduates or moves out of your parents’ house while you are enrolled. The financial aid calculation now sees your family as having more available income, which increases the amount you’re expected to pay out of pocket.”

“Even if you receive the same amount of aid year after year, it may feel like less because your college’s costs increased. On average, tuition and fees have risen roughly 3% annually over the past 10 years, based on data from the College Board … Planning ahead is the best way to prevent these additional costs from catching you by surprise. To help predict future tuition and fee increases at your own school, look it up on the College Navigator website.”

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Colgate Replaces Student Loans with Grants

Syracuse.com: “Colgate University is launching a new ‘no student loan’ approach to tuition for qualifying families on its Hamilton campus … Starting this fall, the college is eliminating loans from its financial aid offers to all current and incoming students with a family income of up to $125,000, officials said. Colgate will offer grants to students who qualify to replace the loans, officials aid. Students and families who want to take out loans to cover the cost of books or other expenses can still do so if they choose … About two dozen other colleges offer similar programs, although they all have different family income limits. Some, such as Stanford and Yale, don’t have family income limits.”

“Colgate officials estimate half of the students receiving financial aid at Colgate will benefit. About 46 percent of Colgate students receive financial aid from the college. Funding for this new effort will initially come from the university’s operating budget, but plans are in place for this program to be funded by the college’s endowment and Colgate Fund through fundraising.”

“The average annual federal loan for students receiving financial aid at Colgate is about $2,200, and the average Colgate aid package for current students is about $53,000 a year.
The average debt for Colgate students who graduated in the Class of 2019 was $15,305. The national average is about $30,000.”

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College Boys Gain More Weight Than Girls

UPI: “As healthy, home-cooked meals give way to a campus diet of beer and pizza, student waistlines tend to expand. But new research shows it is the waistlines of boys that expand the most. Poll results revealed that girls gained an average of about 4 pounds during their first year at university … But among the male first-year students, weight gains roughly doubled that, hitting an average of about 8 pounds … The investigators found that total caloric intake did not change much over the course of the students’ first year at school. However, food quality did decline, while alcohol consumption increased, particularly among boys.”

“For example, freshman girls saw their body mass index (BMI) — a standard measurement of body fat — rise on average from 22.6 to 23.3. That still kept most girls ‘within the normal weight category’ … In contrast, freshman males saw their BMI rise from 23.9 to 25.1. That change ended up ‘putting them into the overweight category,’ particularly given that the students did not experience height changes over the course of the year.”

“The findings were published online July 3 in the journal PLOS ONE.”

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Students Need Schooling on Financial Aid

Bloomberg: “An overwhelming majority of 11th and 12th graders (from 73% to 81%, depending on income group) were unaware that the government will pay their interest on existing loans while they are still in college, according to a new analysis of data by the ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning. From 67% to 70% didn’t know about a program that allows students to repay loans slower, based on how much money they make after college, the study found … The center outlines steps for improvement, including tailoring information for different student groups and improved outreach by college representatives.”

Equity in Learning: “The Center proposes the following ideas in its report … Where possible, a more nuanced view of high school students and their financial needs should be adopted … Colleges need to improve their outreach to the students who could use their assistance and advice the most; without it, students may not have the most up-to-date, personalized or accurate information to make college enrollment and student financial aid decisions.”

“Despite efforts to increase financial aid literacy, there remains an urgent need for more financial literacy–specific interventions. Further, debt-averse students may need additional information about the value of undertaking some (but not too much) debt, and the difference in types of debt.”

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Work Colleges: Earning a ‘Free’ Education

USA Today: “Berea College is called a ‘work college,’ meaning students must work as part of the learning experience toward a degree. There are nine official four-year work colleges, but only three offer free tuition, including Berea. Most free tuition programs are funded through a mix of endowments, alumni gifts and grants. Sometimes students’ earnings are applied to help cover tuition, but other times they keep their wages. Students usually pay for fees, room and board, books and supplies. These additional costs may be covered by federal aid like Pell Grants along with scholarships and loans.”

“While free tuition is sometimes offered at community colleges, it’s rare at four-year schools. The average undergraduate annual tuition and fees across all undergraduate institutions is $12,600, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Students at private nonprofit schools pay the most: $33,800 annually, on average.”

“Over 3,400 colleges and universities participate in the Federal Work-Study Program. To qualify, students must submit the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid and have demonstrated financial need. It’s a first-come, first-served program where jobs are not guaranteed. Among those who did work-study in 2017-18, average earnings were $1,693, according to a 2018 survey by the private lender Sallie Mae.”

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