Top 10: ‘Best Buys’ in Public Universities

CNBC: “Some public schools are far more affordable than others, particularly for those applying out of state. Personal finance site GOBankingRates ranked 100 public universities by out-of-state tuition costs, based on data from schools and U.S. News & World Report. People assume a private school is better, but ‘these public schools are equally good and they have huge resources,’ said Andrew DePietro, the lead researcher and data analyst at GoBankingRates. In addition, not only are the schools near the top of the list relatively less expensive, but most also have a high acceptance rate, making them particularly attainable for college-bound seniors.

Here are the public colleges that made the top 10:

University of South Florida; Kent State University; University of Wyoming; Florida International University; SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry; San Diego State University; Montclair State University; University of Central Florida; Ohio University; and Florida State University.

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Five Tips for Scholarships

Robert Farrington: “Scholarships are the most under-rated tool when it comes to getting money to pay for school … here are my top five secrets for landing scholarships to help you pay for college.” 1) “A few years ago, Fastweb shared that $2.9 billion in grant money went unclaimed simply because people didn’t apply for the FAFSA … When you think about scholarship math in probability and expected value, applying to a lot of scholarships suddenly makes sense.” 2) “On average, about 20% of all applications get disqualified for not following the scholarship application instructions … On the flip side, this really increases the odds for those that do follow the instructions.”

3) “Instead of waiting to the last minute, apply for scholarships early. Even better, plan out a scholarship application calendar and treat it like homework. This will allow you to space out your scholarship applications and hopefully prevent you from missing a deadline.” 4) “When you apply for the scholarship, let others know you applied for it. Show your enthusiasm. Be excited for the organization, the mission, and the opportunity … scholarships are also a form of advertising for the organization. As an entrant in a scholarship, you can help them amplify their message – and this can help get you noticed as well. If the organizer not only sees your scholarship entry, but then they also see your enthusiasm online, it could give you the edge you need to win.”

5) “If you apply to just 20 scholarships, you can have a real chance of getting a substantial amount of money to pay for college.”

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Tips on Appealing For More Student Aid

The Washington Post: “In just a few weeks, families across the country will find out how much their children will receive in financial aid … This will send students and their parents into a frenzy over how to persuade the colleges to give them more assistance. Negotiating for additional financial aid isn’t easy … But if you want to plead your case for more money, there’s a way to strengthen your argument.” Mark Kantrowitz comments: “Negotiation for more financial aid depends on presenting a college financial aid office with documentation of special circumstances that affect the family’s ability to pay.”

“Here’s the reality: Most demands for more money fail — miserably. Although appeals are seldom successful, you have a slightly better chance at private nonprofit schools and high-cost colleges, which often have a policy of providing more aid to needy students … If, however, your financial circumstances have changed, it’s worthwhile to submit an appeal. A number of special circumstances can affect a family’s ability to pay. These include a recent job loss or salary reduction, unusually high child-care expenses, or medical costs not covered by health insurance.”

“Kantrowitz provides useful suggestions on writing an appeal letter, including the do’s and don’ts. For example, don’t ask for a specific amount of money. Do detail a significant financial hardship.”

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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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