Sometimes ‘Plan B’ Is a Better Fit

CNBC: “When students and families weigh everything that goes into attending college, not least the cost, ‘the plan B schools sometimes are a better fit,’ said Katherine Pastor, a school counselor at Flagstaff High School in Arizona.” In fact, ‘close to 17 percent of first-time freshmen were accepted at their top school and chose to attend somewhere else,” according to UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute.

“Some 58 percent of those enrolling at their second-choice school said cost was an issue, compared with 41 percent of those attending their first choice,” according to the Institute. “Students opting for their first-choice school, in contrast, were more likely to cite graduates’ record of landing good jobs or getting into top graduate or professional schools. They were also more likely to mention their school’s strong academic record, the Institute found.”

“Pastor, the Arizona school counselor, said she hears about students who set off for their first choice, only to find that it is not a good fit … Outcomes like that can be particularly difficult if a student has passed on scholarships and aid offers from a second-choice school, and now has to restart the process. The upside may be this, however: ‘I have never heard of a kid who picked their second-choice school who has not been happy with their choice,’ Pastor said.”

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You Can Negotiate Financial Aid

Business Insider: “What some applicants might not know is that it is possible to bargain with colleges on your financial aid package.” Kwasi Enin, who was accepted by all eight Ivy League schools, offers this advice:

“I took Princeton’s letter and I emailed that to Yale, Columbia, and Penn. Within like a week, they all sent me a new financial aid offer on their financial aid website and they matched the same offer.”

“You need to send them a nice letter saying, ‘I love your school but I have a better offer at a similarly ranked school called ‘X’ and if you can find a way to make it possible that I can attend this school by making the aid work out, that would be wonderful.'”

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Need-Based Scholarships Offer Ivy-League Discounts

Business Insider: “In 2015, the average need-based scholarship at Yale was a generous $43,989, knocking off a substantial amount of that school’s sticker price. At Harvard, 65% of students receive scholarships, and the average need-based scholarship is $46,000. These schools, along with the other Ivies, can offer such generous financial aid packages because they have extremely large endowments. Harvard’s endowment alone is worth $37.6 billion.”

“But while the net price of attending an Ivy might be really low for low-income students, those students are still not enrolling at any college in very high numbers … One reason low-income students may not enroll in large numbers is that many schools don’t do a good job of publicizing the difference between the sticker price and the net price.”

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Study Abroad: The Four-Year Program

BloombergBusiness: “Many students are choosing to go further than a one-semester break and attend all four years of college in a foreign city. The number of students enrolled in college outside their countries rose 463 percent from 1975 to 2012, said a report last month by Moody’s Investors Service. International students in the U.S. have grown by 70 percent since 2005, according to the report.”

“College in Europe can be astonishingly cheap for Americans. Forty public and private colleges in continental Europe offer free bachelor’s degrees, taught in English, to Americans … An additional 98 colleges ask tuition of under $4,000 per year … European colleges want American applicants because they can charge higher tuition for non-EU residents. Americans in Europe will still pay considerably less than they would at home … The main thing that holds some Americans back from studying across the Atlantic is a fear that they’ll sacrifice quality—and North American career opportunities.”

Jennifer Viemont, “co-founder of Beyond The States, a database of 350 colleges in 30 countries that offer bachelor’s degrees taught in English,” comments: “The biggest worry people seem to have is that a name from Europe won’t carry the same weight as one from the U.S., but there’s a serious upshot of graduating a year early and with a fraction of the debt. Plus, you’ve seen the world.”

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Raise.me: Introducing Microscholarships

A startup website called Raise.me allows students to earn scholarship credits in exchange for taking certain courses and realizing other achievements, The New York Times reports. “The start-up’s approach is a mash-up of two popular economic concepts. One is ‘nudging,’ that is designing systems to influence the choices people make, ideally for their own good. The other is microfinance — incremental loans for entrepreneurs who would not otherwise have access to funding.”

“Raise.me charges participating institutions annual fees of $4,000 to $20,000 based on a college’s size and scholarship program. Each college sets its own criteria. Penn State has made its Raise.me program available to students at five high schools in Philadelphia, as well as six rural Pennsylvania high schools. Those students may earn scholarships of up to $4,000 a year for four years. Among other awards, the university offers them $120 for each A grade in a core course, $400 for each advanced placement course, $100 for each year of perfect attendance, $100 for a leadership role in a sport or extracurricular activity and $5 for each hour of community service, up to $500.

“The potential risk is that introducing monetary rewards could curb students’ intrinsic motivation to succeed in school, or their innate enjoyment of activities like reading, in favor of striving for scholarship dollars.” However, Raise.me co-founder Preston Silverman “said that the scholarship program did not displace students’ inner enthusiasm, but rather enhanced their motivation by showing them additional ways they could prepare for college.”

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Everybody Is Eligible For Financial Aid

Christian Science Monitor: “If you’re not sure whether you’re eligible for financial aid to help pay for college, there’s an easy answer: Yes. You are. ‘Everybody is eligible, regardless of income,’ says Brad Yeckley, assistant manager of the Student Financial Education Center at Penn State University. What varies is the type of aid you’ll get and whether you’ll have to pay it back.”

Some highlights:

“To get federal, state and school financial aid — and even some private scholarships — you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA … Some forms of financial aid are first-come, first-served, and schools and states often have their own deadlines. Apply for financial aid as soon as possible once the FAFSA opens on Jan. 1 of each year.”

“Schools start by granting you need-based aid (if you qualify), meaning funds that are earmarked for students with financial need. Those can include need-based grants — from the government or the school — and need-based federal loans such as Perkins and direct subsidized loans. Direct loans, also known as Stafford loans, are the most common types of federal student loans. Subsidized loans are more favorable than their unsubsidized counterparts because they don’t accrue interest while you’re in school or for the six months following graduation.”

“If you don’t receive enough need-based aid to cover your cost of attendance, or didn’t qualify for any at all, the school will then offer you federal direct unsubsidized loans or PLUS loans (available to parents and graduate students).These loans are less desirable than direct subsidized or Perkins loans because they accrue interest while you’re in school and during your grace period after you graduate. PLUS loans in particular carry high interest rates, and those made to parents are eligible for fewer repayment plans.”

“A net price calculator will show you how much grant aid you’re likely to receive to attend a particular school. That amount could include federal Pell Grants as well as state and school grant funding. But net price calculators don’t always show you exactly how much of each you’ll receive. That’s why it’s helpful to get an estimate of your potential Pell Grant from the FAFSA4Caster. Most colleges include net price calculators on their websites, but the tools aren’t always easy to find. Search for a calculator using the U.S. Department of Education’s Net Price Calculator Center.”

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