Sticker Shock: What is the Real Cost of College?

CNBC: “According to the College Board’s 2018 Trends in College Pricing Report, from 1988 to 2018, sticker prices tripled at public four-year schools and doubled at public two-year and private non-profit four-year schools … During the 2018 – 2019 school year, the reported tuition at private non-profit four-year schools is an average $35,830. But in reality, many students end up paying far less. Here’s how. College ‘sticker prices’ include tuition, fees, room and board (TFRB) and do not account for scholarships, grants and tax benefits … students typically pay less than the published price.”

“In fact, the average net price of tuition and fees in 2019 is $14,610 at private nonprofit four-year schools. These students typically receive an average $21,220 in grant aid and tax benefits. Similar discounts are also in effect at public colleges. During the 2018 – 2019 school year, the reported sticker price for in-state students is $10,230 at public four-year schools, but the average net tuition and fees is closer to $3,740.”

However: “Many students underestimate the cost of living expenses when they go to college … more than a third of students struggle with basic needs such as food and housing. Prospective students also often overlook graduation rates when they are considering colleges, but they can be an important measures of a school’s quality and cost … just 40 percent of first-time full-time bachelor’s students earn their degree in four years, and only 59 percent earn their bachelor’s in six years … students may want to estimate what six years of tuition and fees will cost them at schools with low four-year graduation rates, and be mindful of planning their schedules and making the most of AP and other college credits.”

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Financial Aid: The Top 10 Private Schools

CNBC: “When it comes figuring out how they’ll pay for college, many families start by shying away from pricey private schools. Yes, annual tuition plus room and board at four-year, private universities is much higher — $48,510, on average in the current academic year — compared with just $21,370 at public institutions, according to the College Board. However, about two-thirds of all full-time students receive aid, which can bring the net price way down.”

“In fact, the top schools for financial aid all have sky-high sticker prices, yet their very generous aid packages make them surprisingly affordable, according to The Princeton Review … When it comes to offering aid, private schools typically have more money to spend.”

In order, the Princeton Review’s top 10 private schools for financial aid are: Bowdoin, Vassar, Princeton, Yale, Pomona, Vanderbilt, Williams, Washington University in St. Louis, California Institute of Technology, Colgate University.

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Financial Aid: How To Interpret Your Award

CNBC: “A school’s financial aid offer typically maps out your expected family contribution and what scholarships or need-based aid you qualify for, not only in the first year but throughout your college career … At public, four-year institutions, tuition plus room and board for the current school year hit $21,370, according to the College Board. At four-year private universities, the cost was more than double that: $48,510, on average … The first thing families should do is take the time to understand the financial aid award letter — particularly the difference between scholarships and loans.”

Ashley Boucher, a spokeswoman for Sallie Mae, which provides loans to students, explains: “It will show free money, like scholarships and grants, and borrowed money, like loans. Not every offer is created equally. If you compare a package that has a higher percentage of loans, it might make sense to take a smaller package that has more money that doesn’t have to be repaid.”

“To get a better sense of your total cost, also consider books, supplies and transportation costs … Note the terms of the aid being offered. Is it renewable for all four years, and what is the minimum grade point average you have to maintain? A school that seems more generous initially might offer less funding down the road … Schools are often receptive to appeals for more aid; they just don’t advertise it. The best way to make such a request is to write a letter to the school’s financial aid office.”

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Student View: How To Get Into UT Austin

The Daily Texan: “Current and former students who offer insight into UT admissions and campus life have become popular, unofficial faces of the University to prospective students on YouTube … Before her freshman year, marketing sophomore Julia Wezio made a YouTube video titled “How I got Into UT Austin Tips + Advice,” and today, Wezio’s video has over 33,000 views — more than any single video UT’s YouTube channel has made in about two years. Marketing junior Lynette Adkins also reached thousands of views on videos covering topics such as the cost of attending UT and study abroad.”

“Miguel Wasielewski, executive director of UT Admissions, said in an email the advice of current students is best when coupled with information provided by college representatives. Wezio, who watched YouTube videos from other UT students before applying, said she also thinks her success was partially driven by the authenticity of her content.”

Wezio comments: “It’s not so much that UT is trying to hide something from you, but it’s more so that they have to use that official language. They have to keep a certain image. When you’re talking to a student who can share their unfiltered voice and be honest with you, I think they’re going to be more honest, obviously about the negative things, but a lot more honest with the positive things too.”

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There’s a Fund for That: Quirky College Scholarships

CNBC: “Few families can cover the skyrocketing cost of college outright. Luckily, there are more than 7 million scholarships available to help …here are a few of the more obscure awards: “High school students must create and wear promwear made from Duck Brand duct tape and/or crafting tape, then upload a photo in their creation during prom season and vote online for the best dressed. Winners in best dress and best tux each receive $10,000.” Tall Club Scholarships “are specifically for students under 21, attending their first year of college, and who meet the height requirements of at least 5′ 10″ for women and 6′ 2″ for men.”

“For those with a sweet tooth, the Love of Chocolate Foundation provides scholarships to students planning to pursue specialized training in pastry arts … Four scholarships are available to promote the research, knowledge, understanding and appreciation of dolls, including antiques, collectibles and modern dolls … students can win scholarships by volunteering. There are a number of community service projects that apply, such as spreading the word about the dangers of impaired driving, which includes driving while drunk, high or drowsy … All high school seniors in Arkansas who successfully demonstrate their duck calls have a chance to win some college aid.”

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Finally: An App for FAFSA

NPR: “At midnight, Oct. 1, the rush begins. That’s when first-time and returning college students can get their first look at the 2019-’20 FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Anyone who wants the government’s help paying for college has to finish the notoriously complicated form. But this year, in an effort to make it easier, the U.S. Department of Education has given the FAFSA a new look: a smartphone application.”

“Ultimately, the department hopes the app will be a one-stop shop for students. A place they can research colleges, check their loan balance and even make a payment. But the real game-changer comes soon, Oct. 1, when borrowers will be able to fill out the FAFSA on their phones using the new app … in the past, many students had no choice but to fill out the FAFSA in a school computer lab. They still can, especially if they’re getting help from a counselor, but now they can also take it home — for the questions that only a parent can answer. They’ll also be able to access the IRS’ data-retrieval tool, which helps students by autopopulating the FAFSA with key tax information.”

“The fact is, this form still won’t be easy for everyone. It never will be — unless Congress radically rewrites the FAFSA. For now, though, students can take some comfort knowing that it may not be easy, but it did just get easier.”

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How Much Is That College Degree Worth?

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Quartz: “While Americans without university degrees have seen a fair rise in household income in recent years, they still lag far behind their college-educated peers. Per triennial data from the US Federal Reserve published this week, people with college degrees these days have a median net worth more than four times that of people without.”

“It’s not that college-educated Americans are making dramatically more money than before—in fact, their median net worth has only grown 2% between 2013 and 2016—but rather that those without college degrees still have a long way to go to catch up. In that three-year period for which Fed data was collected, the median net worth for those with only a high school diploma actually jumped around 25%, from $54,100 to $67,100. But the median net worth for those with college degrees is $292,100.”

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Some Schools Are Still Dangling Dollars

The New York Times: “In the minds of parents and teenagers going through the college application process, May 1 is a magic date. At that point, you’ve sent in a deposit, bought a sticker for your car window and posted your choice on social media. This year, however, scores of teenagers had something unexpected happen next: During the first week in May, they received text messages or emails from schools that had accepted them but had not heard back. The messages all hinted at a particular question: Might a larger discount prompt you to come here after all?”

“The upheaval that comes with reopening the college decision is rough on teenagers as well as their parents, who would have to revisit difficult financial choices and conversations all over again. Suddenly, a first-choice school may be almost within reach but still not quite affordable. The injection of money into a discussion thought to be over makes an emotional situation even more fraught … Now that applicants, even in wealthier families, know how much of a stretch college might be, it can weigh them down with guilt.”

“For a portion of the applicant pool, May 1 has not been the date for some time. Many colleges maintain wait lists … And for all the attention families devote to the most competitive institutions, plenty more have space available through summer and invite qualified students to apply. The National Association for College Admission Counseling, or Nacac, publishes a list each year, and this year’s lineup includes household names like Arizona State and Penn State.”

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Georgetown: Slavery Descendants Given ‘Legacy’

NPR: “Georgetown University will be offering an admissions edge to descendants of enslaved people sold to fund the school … Jesuit priests connected to the private Catholic university sold 272 enslaved people in 1838, to pay off the university’s massive debts. The men, women and children were sold to plantations in Louisiana; the university received the equivalent of $3.3 million, securing its survival.”

Georgetown will treat “the descendants of those enslaved people the same way it treats legacy students, applicants whose family members attended Georgetown … The working group had also recommended that Georgetown explore the feasibility of offering financial assistance for those students as well.”

“Additionally, the school will be renaming two buildings — formerly named after the two university presidents who made the arrangements to sell slaves to fund the school … One will become Isaac Hall, after one of the enslaved men who was sold in 1838, and another Anne Marie Becraft Hall, after a black educator and nun … Georgetown will also establish a memorial to the people whose enslavement funded and built the school, offer a mass of reconciliation and work to promote scholarship in the field of racial justice, it says.”

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Super Seniors: The Six-Year Plan

The Wall Street Journal: “Low graduation rates hurt a school’s reputation, and staying enrolled for extra years adds to the tab for students. So dozens of schools and statewide systems are trying to cut back on the number of ‘super seniors’ milling about campus.”

“Schools have embraced marketing gimmicks like ‘Class of ’17’ bumper stickers to rally students around their graduation year. But they also are changing how they price a semester to make it easier to stay on pace to graduate, notifying students eligible to graduate that they should do so soon, and altering the classes offered in a given term to help students take the courses they need.”

“Nationally, four in 10 students who entered college for the first time as full-time freshmen in 2008 graduated within four years. The six-year rate hovers around 60% … Meanwhile, students who are ready to move on can struggle to get credit for how far they have come. With more than one-third of students now attending multiple institutions during their college careers, convoluted credit-transfer policies continue to slow the timeline to graduation.”

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