Tag Archives: cost of college

Few aspects of the college admissions process cause as much consternation and confusion as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better know as the FAFSA. This document is critical: you need to fill out the FAFSA to get any college financial aid from the federal government in the form of grants, work-study, and low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Education. What are some fast facts worth knowing about the FAFSA? Filling out the FAFSA is free. The FAFSA isn’t just used by the federal government. Many states and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine which students get financial aid and how much will be awarded. The FAFSA doesn’t focus solely on the applicant but also requires information a family’s finances, including tax returns. The FAFSA needs to be filled out every year. Of course, fast facts can only tell you so much. This topic deserves as much…

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I am–at least today–a proud alum of a public university. Actually, back when I was submitting college applications, a state school was the farthest thing from my mind, an afterthought at the suggestion of my guidance counselor. Good thing I did, because while I was accepted to the Ivies on my list, I couldn’t afford them! Luckily, SUNY Stony Brook offered me a quality education at a rate I could pay through work and reasonable loans. Not to say that anyone can put himself through college by delivering Chinese takeout anymore, but state schools make a massive positive difference in the trajectory of the lives of hundreds of thousands of students a year. That’s why the NY Times Thursday email newsletter touching on the college money crisis struck home for me: The coronavirus has caused severe budget problems for American higher education. But many colleges’ financial troubles are much larger…

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Financial aid awards from colleges have always, for better or worse, possessed an air of finality about them. Once applicants submitted all their paperwork, they basically had to accept whatever thin gruel of grants, loans, and work study a school deigned to offer, need be damned. Only rarely did applicants appeal their financial aid, and more rarely still did those appeals elicit further funding. At least, that’s how college financial aid used to work… The year 2020, if you haven’t noticed, ushered in what can be fairly described as a higher ed apocalypse. In February, The College Stress Test was published, wherein the authors constructed a stress test for estimating the market viability of more than 2,800 undergraduate institutions and concluded that 10 percent or so of the nation’s colleges and universities faced substantial market risk. Around the same time, I interviewed past president of NACAC Patrick O’Connor about the…

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The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship is one of the most valuable college scholarships in the United States. It pays up to full tuition, a monthly salary, and a yearly book allowance for those applicants who wish to become officers in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines. Strictly speaking, an ROTC participant is not joining the Armed Forces. Participants will not be sent to “boot camp.” However, the primary purpose of the ROTC program is to produce its officers, so they must agree to serve as officers in the military after graduation in order to go through the entire program, or if they have received an ROTC scholarship. Initially enrolling (the first two years of college) does not obligate participants to serve unless they have also received a scholarship. Scholarship winners generally serve four years on active duty. ROTC classes normally involve one elective class and…

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Remember how stressful car shopping used to be? Every auto, new and used alike, had a sticker price, but hardly anyone actually paid that price. Instead, every car sale involved intense negotiations, where the salesperson would endeavor to upsell while the customer haggled the cost downwards. In the end, someone lost the negotiation, either paying too much for a car or sacrificing too much commission. No wonder most car dealerships have adopted no-haggle pricing! No buyers like to spend more–sometimes tens of thousands more–than they have to. The rational model of economic decision making assumes that people make choices that maximize benefits and minimize any costs, but that model also assumes that a buyer or seller has full and perfect information on which to base a choice. Yet, every college applicant acts with very incomplete information, and nearly every college student forks over more in tuition than necessary. Why? While…

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It’s no surprise that paying for college is a top tier financial stressor.  A June 2017 Gallup poll finds that, after healthcare costs and making ends meet, “college costs” ties with “low income” as the 3rd and 4th highest financial stressors for families. Sky-high college costs are motivating talented students to seek academic scholarships. The trick is knowing where to look. Years ago, we shared a helpful New York Times list detailing which colleges award the most merit-based aid.  Digging deeper into the listed schools rewards a savvy student with a better idea of how her scores can pay actual dollars in the college marketplace. A look at college websites reveals that colleges vary widely in the way they publicize and award the cash. Most college websites list merit scholarship opportunities under “financial aid” (am I the only one to find this a bit misleading?), describing various “excellence” and “leadership”…

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