Monthly Archives: February 2012

5 Colleges Slashing Tuition

From CNN Money, learn about these schools that are actually reducing the cost of tuition!


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Financial Aid Made Simple: Enabling Parents To Be Experts

ImageMarch is upon us and while some high school seniors have already received acceptance letters, the vast majority will hear sometime in March and April.  After the initial excitement of an acceptance settles in, most parents are more interested in the bottom line: how much will it cost for my child to attend her dream school?

Financial aid packages, which are sent either with acceptance letters, but sometimes a week or two after, can be confusing.  Even the most savvy parents get confused, we’ve seen it time and again, so we’ve broken it down.

To Get Started:

1. What is the cost of tuition?

2. What is the cost of room and board?

3. Are there any mandatory fees?  If so, what is the total cost of those?

Add the total of 1, 2 and 3.  That equals the cost of attendance (A) .

4. $1000-1500 (approximate cost of books for one academic year)

5. What is the total cost of travel expenses to/from campus for vacations student will go home?

6. What is the total cost miscellaneous expenses (toiletries, extra food, going out, spending money)?

Add the total of 4, 5 and 6 (B) .

Add (A) and (B). This equals the total cost of attendance (C).

Now, identify the pieces of your financial aid package:

7. List each individual grant and scholarship with amount.  Add together to get total amount of grant aid. *This money is a gift – you do not need to pay it back.

8. List each individual loan with amount.  Add together to get total amount of loan aid. *This money will need to be repaid upon graduation.

9. List total amount of work-study (if offered). *This amount represents the total amount the student can earn over the course of one academic year in a designated work-study campus job.  It is not given to students, they must work to earn it.

Add 7, 8 and 9. This equals the total amount of financial aid offered by the school (D).

Now, subtract (D) from (C) total cost of attendance. This equals your contribution to attend the college (E).

If you’ve won private scholarships (see Financial Aid Resources), continue below.  If you do not have private scholarships, (E) is your total contribution to attend the college.

10. List each individual private scholarship with amount. Add together total amount of private scholarship aid.

Finally, subtract 10 from (E) your contribution to attend the college.  This equals your total contribution to attend the college.

Now that (we hope) your financial aid package makes sense, assess whether you can afford to attend the college.  If you still have questions or concerns, call the college financial aid office.  Financial aid officers are there to help you and want to help you.  Do not be embarrassed to call!

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If I Don’t Like It, I Might Just Transfer

Recently the National Student Clearinghouse Center published their Signature Report that found one-third of all college students transfer at some point over the course of a five-year period leading up to graduation.  Transfer rates have long been followed and examined, but what I found noteworthy was part of the authors’ conclusion, “Moreover, rather than focusing criticism on institutions when they fail to capture the entirety of each student’s educational career, it would properly recognize all of the institutions that play a role within that career.”

Today’s students have more options than any other generation and we’ve made it so easy for people to change their mind over and over and over again.  On the one hand, options mean more access for more people; take social media for example – people who have internet can get updates almost immediately after something happens.  But it also encourages what I’ve seen in the millennial generation – an impatient and fickle state of mind.  If I don’t like something – poof – I’ll get something else, go somewhere else or simply just walk away.  I’ve seen texting take precedent over actually talking and this means teenagers aren’t learning to respond, react and articulate their thoughts and emotions in real-time.  What happens then, when they leave home and face real-life and real-time challenges?

And so I wonder if the authors’ conclusion stated above is just too lenient on all of us.  Things get rough for practically every college student and certainly they are subject to change their mind, but is it too much to expect that we encourage young people to follow-through on their choices?  Is there any reason not to expect that colleges implement, and whole-heartedly execute freshmen and sophomore programming that meets the needs of their specific population?  And for those of us mentoring college students, at what point do we support transferring?

Of course, there are always circumstances that might warrant a transfer, but at least in my experience with college students, their reasons for wanting to transfer are most often in the realm of lack of academic confidence, homesickness and what I like to call the I have no idea who I am and therefore, I want a change, any change and I’m not sure any of these are reason enough not to work through on a single college campus.

*Note: the entire report provides a thorough and compelling examination of  the topic not limited to what’s mentioned here.

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Perfection Not Required

Check out this article Want to Get In? Learn to Fail by Angel B. Perez, vice president and dean of admission and financial at Pitzer College.  A refreshing perspective from someone inside one of the top liberal arts colleges. In fact, many colleges understand teenagers will be teenagers and for some candidates, acknowledging risk, failure and then resilience may take them further than they realize.

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I Want To Make It On My Own Merits

Family context seems to shape our perceptions of affirmative action and so, as the Supreme Court prepares to hear the University of Texas affirmative action case, the discourse on the subject has increased and emotions from all sides is palpable.

As educators, how do we engage youth in dynamic, respectful, yet honest
conversations about affirmative action? How do we ensure students stay connect to and proud of their heritage when discussing a topic that is emotionally charged?  In my experience, many young people from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds communicate a sense of shame when they vehemently share their opposition to affirmative action, sharing, “I want to make it on my own merits”.

It’s true they should be admitted to college because of their own merits and they are, but the fact remains we live in a society tainted by economical and educational inequities. Most top colleges and universities do not make regular visits to poorer, urban high schools, even if they are in the same area to visit private schools. That in and of itself means the top students at an under-resourced high school do not have the same basic access to competitive schools as others. The blame can be placed many places, but the point here, is, students lose.

College admissions is contextual, too. If 50 students from the same high school apply to the same college, they will inevitably be competing against each other. Once a portion of those students are deemed promising, they then compete against other students in the state and so on. It’s no secret competitive high school curriculum is central to college admission. True some colleges take the time to understand the context of each high school, but it’s impossible to do that for every applicant. Therefore, a student who takes the most competitive classes at a high school that doesn’t offer AP courses and does well, is going to be hard pressed to compete against another student who takes the most competitive classes at a school that offers numerous AP courses. Both demonstrate potential, but the first may not ever have the chance to realize her potential because of where she comes from.

Diversity is a priority at many well-known colleges, yet when they successfully admit and retain a student body that is geographically, racially, ethnically, religiously, by interest etc, some still receive push back from its own. Take Smith College, for example. The top liberal arts college has made impressive strides in its diversity efforts, but recently an alumna expressed extreme dissent at the direction the college is going in, concluding:

I can tell you that the days of white, wealthy, upper-class students from prep schools in cashmere coats and pearls who marry Amherst men are over. This is unfortunate because it is this demographic that puts their name on buildings, donates great art and subsidizes scholarships. Click here for the entire story.

Whether the key factor is race, gender, sexuality, economics etc, controversies like the one at Smith highlight how many categorize the “haves and have nots” is unchanged from years past and it seems the gap between the two not only exists, but impacts access to higher education.


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Encourage Young People To Find Their Passions

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Writing Our Future

Learn about one of Los Angeles’ hidden treasures – 826LA provides free academic tutoring and writing programs to students in the Los Angeles area.  Check-out this great piece on the organization from Education Nation by clicking here.

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