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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Hidden Gem: Norwalk Community College

With so much attention diverting to the deep, dark underside of higher education, let’s take a moment to shine a light on a hometown hidden gem: Norwalk Community College. NCC may not project much as a status symbol, but it certainly deserves serious consideration by certain high-schoolers. Surprisingly, this includes the highest performing students.

Here’s why: The most selective universities favor applicants who not only take advantage of everything their high schools have to offer, but who also pursue additional opportunities above and beyond the norm. Students who want to impress dream schools with their passion for learning should think about enrolling in a high-level course or two at NCC. Their application will be all the more outstanding and memorable for it.

NCC is, of course, best known as a place for those who are just not quite ready for a four-year college experience. This could be because of academic issues, financial considerations, emotional state, or some other personal reason. For such students and others, NCC offers an attractive pathway to a four-year college. For one thing, it maintains a special arrangement with UConn, which guarantees transfer admission to NCC associate-degree graduates with at least a 3.0. Not bad! For another, it provides a low-cost way to earn college credits before transferring to a four-year school.

At a two-year tuition cost of about $9,000, students can take care of basic college requirements on their way to a bachelor’s degree at one of America’s finer universities, up to and including the Ivy League. It’s a fact: NCC grads have been known to go onto Columbia, Yale and other highly selective schools. Indeed, many elite schools pride themselves on accepting community college grads.

Sadly, community colleges are often dismissed and even derided. That’s not only unfair, but outdated and just plain wrong. Right here, in our own backyard, is a local treasure, Norwalk Community College. Can you dig it?

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UMass: ‘ZooMass’ No More?

The Boston Globe: “In boosting its academic profile, UMass is following the path previously taken by several local private colleges, notably Boston College, Tufts University, Boston University, and, most recently, Northeastern University … Still, there are different implications when the state’s flagship public university becomes less accessible. For starters, there are lots of parents who are dumbfounded — and furious — when their kids get rejection letters from UMass. After all, they grew up when the place was known as ‘ZooMass,’ a safety school more associated with call-the-cops ragers than academic rigor.”

“The acceptance rate for UMass Amherst hasn’t changed much — it’s 60 percent, down just a couple of points from when he arrived. But the pool has grown stronger. UMass is now attracting many more students who have the credentials to get into selective private colleges but go public because their families make too much money to qualify for significant financial aid, yet not enough to cover private tuition without signing on for lots of loans. UMass isn’t cheap — about $30,000 per year for in-state tuition, fees, and room and board — but that is less than half of the going rate at most privates.”

Meanwhile: “UMass Amherst bought a campus in Newton after Mount Ida, a small college drowning in debt, suddenly shuttered last spring … having a presence in the humming east will allow UMass students to spend a semester or two in the Mount Ida dorms, pursuing the internships they need to graduate with work experience.” The Mount Ida campus may also serve as “a tool to recruit rising-star faculty who have the potential to leave their mark in the life sciences and technology fields — and can bring in large grants — but who are too attracted to the vibrant scene radiating from MIT in Cambridge to consider moving to Western Massachusetts.”

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Private Schools Like Community College Transfers

The Wall Street Journal: “Small, private colleges have found a new place to troll for prospective students: At community colleges down the road, or even across the country … In the past year alone, more than a dozen private colleges and universities nationwide have signed deals to make it easier for community-college students to transfer in. They’re swaying prospective students thanks to hefty scholarship offers and guarantees of graduating in four years, nearly eliminating cost differentials with public counterparts.”

“The new effort marks a change in attitude for private colleges, which historically have assumed community-college graduates’ coursework wasn’t rigorous enough to count toward a four-year liberal arts or pre-professional degree. But with nearly half of all students now starting their college careers at public two-year schools, leaders of four-year private institutions say they can’t afford to turn up their noses at potential students who started down a different path and would be happy to get the two years of tuition revenue over none at all.”

“From 2006 to 2013, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation invested nearly $10 million to help elite institutions like Amherst College and University of California, Berkeley, create pathways for low-income community-college students. More than 2,100 students moved to four-year schools through the program; they largely succeeded academically, with many going on to pursue graduate degrees.”

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Shady Grove: The Future of Higher Ed?

The Washington Post: The Universities at Shady Grove “is a program unlike any other, with nine state universities converging at the Rockville, Md., campus, part of an effort that began 16 years ago to reduce college costs, produce an educated workforce and encourage college completion among populations that traditionally struggle to get their ­degrees.”

Shady Grove offers a way for community college students to transfer into undergraduate programs at nine of the 12 schools in the University System of Maryland, including the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Bowie State, Towson and the state flagship in College Park … Each school has its own office on campus and individual banners raised high above the quad … All classes are held in Rockville and taught by professors from the partner schools, so a student seeking a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland Baltimore County can earn the degree without ever setting foot in ­Catonsville.”

“Students pay the tuition their home school charges, but they spend less on fees tied to facilities, parking and athletics. By spending two years at Montgomery College before heading to Shady Grove, students can save an average of $8,000 on tuition and fees … Students must get accepted to one of the partner schools, but once they’re in, they have a better chance of graduating through Shady Grove than if they had transferred directly to the school. The program has a 75 percent graduation rate for transfer students, the highest in Maryland’s university system and higher than the 58 percent national average.”

“It’s a very innovative model,” said Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “You have a public institution responding to market conditions in a way that expands access.”

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The Convergence of Public & Private Schools

Chronicle of Higher Education: “Taken together, privatizing public institutions and publicizing private institutions suggest nothing less than a convergence of these once very different institutions. This convergence has taken a number of forms. For instance, one of the traditional calling cards of a public university has been its affordability. But the decline in state funding has forced public universities to lean far more heavily on tuition revenue.”

“Another of the once-distinctive traits of public research universities is accessibility, or their capacity to open their doors to a broad and diverse group of students. Here, too, budget cuts have taken a serious toll … At the same time, private research universities have been in the vanguard of accessibility in a new domain — online mass education.”

“Finally, convergence has been apparent in the civic-mindedness of private universities. Public universities have long been regarded as anchored in their local or regional communities, while private universities have been seen as more standoffish. Yet, in recent years, there has been a sea change among private research universities in their connectedness to their surrounding communities … the leaders of a number of private universities are now harnessing their resources to invest in community development, job training, local schools, and other opportunities.”

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Survey: America’s Best Public Colleges

Business Insider: “Niche, a company that researches and compiles information on schools, ranked the best public schools in the US … To determine its rankings, Niche considers factors like academic strength, campus quality, caliber of professors, and quality of student reviews for more than 1,500 schools across the country. Read on to see which school is repping your state.”

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