Top 10 Schools for Financial Aid

CNBC: “Yes, annual tuition plus room and board at four-year, private universities is much higher — $48,510, on average — compared to public institutions — at just $21,370 — in the current academic year, according to the College Board. However, about two-thirds of all full-time students receive aid, which can bring the sticker price significantly down … The Princeton Review ranked colleges by how much financial aid is awarded and how satisfied students are with their packages. The report is based on data collected from fall 2018 through summer 2019.”

“The top schools for financial aid are all private and have sky-high sticker prices, yet their very generous aid packages make them surprisingly affordable.” The top 10 are: Bowdoin, Vanderbilt, Washington University in St. Louis, Princeton, Yale, Rice, Grinnell, Thomas Aquinas, Vassar, and Gettysburg.”


Which Colleges Have the Coolest Dorms?

Business Insider: “With the price of college rising, some schools around the country are trying entice new students with apartment style living, fancy recreational facilities, and even free laundry.” For example: “All first- and second-year Santa Clara students are required to live in what Santa Clara calls, ‘Residential Learning Communities’ … The eight Residential Learning Centers each have their own theme, like ‘innovation and integrity,’ or ‘service and community.’ These themes are meant to instill a sense of community and identity to each of the dorms. For juniors and seniors, the school offers luxury University Villas, so you’ll never have to travel far to get to class.”

“By simply using an app, students living in Rice University’s dorms can save precious time … and have their clothes washed, dried, and folded at no cost. Upon move in, students receive a large anti-bacterial laundry bag with a barcode that lets the students track their clothes along their path to cleanliness … Most Bowdoin first years will initially live in underclass residence halls, but they’re all encouraged to eventually apply to one of the school’s eight College Houses. Described as ‘the living room’ of campus, the houses host social programs and mentorship opportunities throughout the year.”

“Students at Scripps College are treated to a refined living experience. Many of the ten residence halls on campus are furnished with ornate furniture and regal carpets. Some of the halls have outdoor communal areas where students can socialize around red tiled lined fountains or hang out around outdoor balconies. Several of the residence halls even have living rooms with communal pianos … Bennington takes the idea of a cramped, institutionalized dorm room and throws it out the window, opting instead for ‘houses’ of 30 to to 45 students. Each house includes a full living room, kitchen, and washers and dryers. Most of the homes even have cozy fireplaces.”


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: “All 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.”