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: A”ll 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.”


Colgate Replaces Student Loans with Grants “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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


When Minor Interests Are Major Studies

CheatSheet: “Don’t you wish you could have studied in The Beatles in college? Believe it or not, majoring in this English rock band is a real thing at Liverpool University. This isn’t the only unusual college major out there .. With cannabis becoming legal in more states, there’s a real need for people with degrees in medicinal plant chemistry … Roller coaster engineering can fall into several engineering specialties, like design, computer, civil, and industrial/structural … Many people have tried home-brewing beer. So, it makes sense that fermentation sciences is a popular degree nowadays.”

A degree in recreation and leisure “prepares students to find funding for new parks, plan health and fitness events for their community, and help the disabled and elderly … Comic art majors learn both traditional and digital comic-drawing techniques as well as the craft of storytelling … Michigan State University has a school of packaging that takes the subject to a new level. One reason this field is so important is that they innovate sustainable packaging practices … Entertainment Engineering and Design is a major at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.”

“You can major in nannying at Sullivan University in Kentucky and learn things like child development, preparing nutritious meals, and effective communication with both adults and children … If you major in pop culture, you may double major or minor in a study like journalism, public relations, or marketing … At Texas A&M, the anthropology department offers a nautical archeology degree that prepares you for a future in the field. Courses included are Books and Treatises on Shipbuilding and Outfitting and Sailing the Wooden Ship: 1400-1900.”


Trinity Tour: Big City, Small Campus, Bright Future

Almost always the tour follows the information session, but at Trinity College it was the other way around, at least for us. Touring first was not a particularity of the school; it was just the way it worked out based on when we arrived. Whether this changed our overall impression is an open question. Probably not. It likely did affect what we learned about the school and in what order, however.

The first point of interest was the president’s house, a cheerful, yellow, modest abode to our right as we left the admissions office. The house itself was far less noteworthy than a pair of facts about its current occupant: Joanne Berger-Sweeney is both the first female and first African-American president of Trinity. While she is said to be exceptionally diminutive, she casts a big presence across campus, frequently seen traversing the school’s beautiful, green landscape. She may also be a metaphor for Trinity’s mindful integration of the past and future, as an institution that clearly reveres its storied history but also trains its focus on what lies ahead.

As we entered Trinity’s iconic chapel, we heard that Episcopalians founded the school in 1823 as an alternative to Yale. Originally named Washington College, it changed its name in 1845 because so many other schools were also named after America’s favorite military hero. Exactly why “Trinity” was picked as the new name apparently is unknown, and contributes to a common, incorrect assumption that the school is Catholic. Trinity Chapel, meanwhile, is solemn inside and out. If it looks remarkably like a mini-me of the National Cathedral, that’s because it was designed by the same architect.

Stepping outside onto the main quad, and the so-called “Long Walk” — all brownstone, Gothic spires, and archways — Trinity instantly fills the bill for any student looking for the definition of collegiate. The giant, leafy elm trees are equally impressive, and even more so after our guide mentioned that they are planted to form a “T” if viewed from above.

A quick walk upstairs to a classroom spoke volumes about Trinity’s commitment to a blend of old and new. The building dates back to the 1870s, but was thoroughly restored in 2009 to the tune of about $35 million. The result is a building interior with the kind of grandeur that today’s money could not buy, restored to near perfection. The classroom we saw featured heavy, though graceful, arched wooden beams, and old-school blackboards that looked like they were installed the day before yesterday and not yet used. It’s hard to imagine any student not awed by this, and inspired to live up to the expectations the room implies. It is seriousness of purpose built of wood and stone, at once luxurious and ascetic.

That experience contrasted stunningly with our tour through the brand new Crescent Center for Arts and Neuroscience, which opened in the Spring of 2016. The building is intended as a nexus of Trinity’s devotion to interdisciplinary studies, and the fostering of creativity and collaboration across the arts and sciences. It combines media and art galleries with laboratories dedicated to the study of human behavior and consciousness. How cool is that? The center also features common areas for special events and casual gatherings, encouraging students of various backgrounds and interests to meet and share knowledge, ideas, or just conversation.

What’s especially impressive is the way in which this flashy, new structure and the concepts it represents blends so neatly into the venerable old campus, without disrupting the existing aesthetics. We’ve noticed that some schools almost make a point of building the ultra-modern next to the ultra-antique, underscoring clean breaks and sharp differences. Trinity’s refreshing approach seems to suggest a certain continuum. By the way, it is no coincidence that Joanne Berger-Sweeney is herself a neuroscientist, and is not only president but also a professor at the school.

Every tour devotes a good chunk of time on housing, which at Trinity is a notably happy story. This is entirely because of the recent construction of the Crescent Townhouses, which have the look and feel of luxury condominiums. We didn’t go inside, but seeing them from the outside required no further verification. Nice. Very nice. We were told that each unit is an eight-student suite, with individual bedrooms, a living room, full kitchen and washer/dryer. It is almost entirely occupied by seniors, meaning that what had previously been the best dorms on campus are now available to younger students. Trinity is one of the few schools where single rooms are available, if desired, from first-year on.

Speaking of first-year, Trinity has a program of ten “nests” to help new students transition to college, and stay on track throughout their four years. They’re called “nests” because the Trinity mascot is a bantam, and each is named to honor a piece of the school’s history or traditions. The idea is to provide a support network, known as the Bantam Network, consisting of student-life dean, a faculty advisor and peer mentors.

As we walked through Trinity’s student-run coffeehouse, we asked our guide about her areas of study, which she said were political science and religious studies. We asked if the combination was happenstance or if there was a connection between the two, and before she could answer, the barista behind the counter interrupted, saying, “Excuse me, are you talking about religious studies? I just have to tell you the religious studies program here is amazing! The professors are fantastic, it’s just incredible.” That kind of spontaneous, unsolicited endorsement is exactly the kind of thing we listen for on our campus visits. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, but it happened with conviction at Trinity.

The info session that followed, held in a living-room style arrangement, mostly underscored what we had seen during our tour. It was memorable for its well-organized presentation, taking us through what students will experience at Trinity from their first year to their fourth: its first-year gateway program that helps establish available areas of study; choosing a major second year; internships and “study away” (both domestic and international) third-year; and thesis, capstone or seminar projects in the fourth.

Plenty of color was mixed in as well, the most significant of which is Trinity’s unusual location. It is a thoroughly green campus, in a suburban, working-class neighborhood, yet it is within eyeshot of downtown Hartford and all the internships — business and political — the Connecticut state capital has to offer, not to mention all the accoutrements of a big city: shops, restaurants, sports, concerts, museums, galleries and on and on.

Trinity is a smaller school, a college not a university, with about 2,000 students. So, as campuses go, it is on the quieter side. Yet it is making a lot of good noise in its own, timeless way.


U Rochester Goes Test Optional

Inside Higher Ed: “Recent months have seen a surge in the number of colleges dropping requirements that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores … four colleges that recently went test optional are Carthage College, Marquette University, the University of Rochester and the University of Southern Maine. While none of those colleges are as competitive as the University of Chicago, which dropped its SAT requirement a year ago, their decisions are consistent with the predictions of many admissions expert that Chicago’s move would lead more colleges that are competitive in admissions and that have national reputations to follow suit.”

“The University of Rochester admits only 29 percent of applicants and is a member of the Association of American Universities. Rochester also acted after attracting a record high 21,300 applicants to enroll in the fall, up 6 percent from what had been a record the previous year. Rochester, since 2011, has been ‘test flexible,’ meaning that applicants were not required to submit SAT or ACT scores but did need to submit one standardized test score. The most common submission was an Advanced Placement test, but applicants could also submit International Baccalaureate or other exams.”

“In announcing the change, Rochester officials said that the test-flexible period made evident that little was added to admissions decisions by having any test scores … Marquette’s decision to go test optional may also be noteworthy. Marquette is a nationally known university, and it is extending to international applicants the option not to submit SAT or ACT scores … Marquette is also extending test-optional admissions to homeschooled students … The only group of applicants for whom the SAT or ACT is still required are those seeking to play Division I athletics on a Marquette team, per National Collegiate Athletic Association requirements.”


UConn Tour: Beyond Huskymania

When is an urban campus not an urban campus? One answer might be: when it’s the University of Connecticut. Set in New England’s countryside, UConn’s entrance materializes suddenly, like just another of the scattered intersections along a heavily wooded byway, interrupted here and there by the occasional strip mall or gasoline station. A quick turn transitions into a major thoroughfare and to our right, a police officer pointing a radar gun our way. To our left, rustic, white fences border vast acres of beautiful farmland, sending a very different signal. Within a matter of minutes, however, a near-skyline of large, brick buildings resolve any question. We are definitely not in Kansas anymore.

UConn may not qualify as city, exactly, but it certainly is a very large town in its own right, in certain ways not unlike some schools classified as “urban.” It even has its own zip-code, as well as fire, ambulance, and, yes, police force, on campus. As municipalities go, it is suburban-mall tidy, its generous boulevards trimmed in meticulously maintained greenery. It is also growing, as the cement trucks rumbling down its streets and destination construction sites testify. An enormous, new health and fitness center will open soon. After parking in a garage the size of a city block, we ambled across the street to the admissions office for our info session and tour.

Ushered into a classroom-style venue, our info session was led by a pair of students, Eduardo and Mikayla, who doubled as our tour guides. This, in itself, made a statement, as most schools separate the two activities, with the info session usually run by an admissions counselor, sometimes with an assist from a student. Exactly what the statement was, of course, is open to interpretation, but based on what we heard, it appeared to be designed to raise the comfort level of prospective students. After all, any college can be intimidating, but especially one as large as UConn with its approximately 24,000 undergrads.

The very first thing our guides mentioned was the convocation ceremony for incoming students, described as a really fun time, a giant block party complete with UConn swag and other goodies. This welcoming theme ran throughout the presentation and tour, and the message was this: We know your transition to college life is a big adjustment, but we will support you every step of the way. Having eminently relatable students running the introduction to UConn from beginning to end personified the message: “Don’t worry; we did it and so will you.”

The tour was tag-team style, with Mikayla doing the talking with Eduardo — or Eddy as he called himself — making sure to speak directly with each and every student along the way, reinforcing a spirit of caring. “How’re you doing?” he’d say. “Just want to make sure all your questions are answered.” He had spent at least five or ten minutes engaged in casual conversation with each student by the time the tour was over. Incidentally, it was a diverse group, with prospects not only from Connecticut, but also Washington DC, Indiana, Massachusetts and even Hong Kong. Mikayla, meanwhile, was unafraid to reveal her own sense of vulnerability, confiding at the outset that this was her very first time leading a tour. She did great. We never would have guessed it was her inaugural voyage.

We were taken through a typical array of stops for a larger school, such as the student union, the academic services center, and the business school. At every opportunity, we were reminded of the ways in which UConn supports the college transition, with programs such as ACES, which pairs students with an academic advisor, and FYE, or the first-year experience, where students get to know professors and classmates in a particular area of interest. The other big emphasis, naturally, was career/jobs, including periodic job fairs, “Career Tuesdays” that offer weekly meetings with potential employers, as well as opportunities to become Bloomberg certified. True to form, UConn also makes a point of easing the transition from college into the real world of jobs and careers.

We stopped outside the Neag School of Education, which offers a five-year combined undergraduate and Masters program, the Babbage Library, home of some 3.5 million books, and the William Benton Museum of Art, housing some 6,500 pieces, dating back to the 15th century. We heard tale of “One Ton Sundae,” when students can fill up a bucketful of UConn’s famous Dairy Bar ice cream, for free. It happens in February but is a very popular event.

Our final stop was the Brien McMahon residence hall, one of eight on campus that features a themed cafeteria. McMahon offers international fare, while others specialize in kosher/halal, vegan/vegetarian, and, on message: comfort food. We stopped by a picture-perfect model dorm room, and were then asked to take a seat and fill out an evaluation form. They wanted us to offer comments and suggestions to improve their presentation and tour! UConn may not be the only school to do this, but it is unusual and speaks well of both their level of confidence and willingness to listen. Once again, it was comforting.

In yet another nice touch, we were asked to pose for a group picture with a cut-out of Jonathan Husky, the school mascot. It was also surprising, in that there had been little mention of “Huskymania” during the info session or tour, suggesting that UConn is more interested in building its reputation on academics, even though bragging about its enviable sports program would be an easy thing to do.

It was a healthy reminder that a little humility goes a long way.


Syracuse Launches ‘Intelligence Community Center’

The Daily Orange: “Syracuse University will receive a $1.5 million grant from the United States Intelligence Community over a five-year period to educate and recruits students interested in the intelligence field … The Intelligence Community also designated SU as one of eight national Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence. As part of the program, SU will lead a consortium of universities, including Norfolk State University in Virginia and The Grove School of Engineering at The City College of New York.”

“The consortium will work to meet the educational needs of the Intelligence Community, a federation of 17 separate federal intelligence agencies … SU plans to build partnerships with the institutions in its consortium to help attract a diverse body of students, such as military veterans, women and others from underrepresented backgrounds … SU’s $62.5 million National Veterans Resource Center, a regional hub for veteran services, is expected to open in January 2020.”