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Paying for College


beth in md
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This is an interesting review of a new book called "Debt-Free U: How I Paid for My Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents." The journalist, an education reporter for the Washington Post calls it the "Best (and most unsettling) college admissions book ever."

 

Thought you all might like the link:

 

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2010/08/the_quick_brown_foxds.html?utm_source=twtr&utm_medium=social

 

 

Beth in MD

http://www.homeschoolmontgomery.com

http://www.homeschoolfrederick.com

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Thanks I read the article. The book sounds quite interesting and I so agree with these lines:

"I believe the quality of education is almost entirely up to the student

 

We visited one of DS college's several times. After the 3rd visit, and seeing the same tour guides and the same kids on the Q&A panel the above thought went through my head. Here are kids who really took it upon themselves to have a wonderful time at this school. We know this from homeschooling. The education you receive is so often up to you, the student.

 

I heard this at ever single college campus tour and everytime it rubbed me the wrong way:

counselors telling parents that they are going to have to dig into their resources to get their child through school,
I didn't like it that they were sending this message to the kids either, that the parent, and only the parent, must dig into their resources. I took on a job, DS will be too, and working to keep his scholarships.

 

Carole

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I didn't like it that they were sending this message to the kids either, that the parent, and only the parent, must dig into their resources. I took on a job, DS will be too, and working to keep his scholarships.

 

Carole

 

Right, Carole, but keep in mind that when we were students, tuition and books required a smaller percentage of income than they do today. Once upon a time students were able to pay a significant percentage of their costs through summer employment. Today, students are lucky to earn two thousand dollars in a summer. That does not go very far toward the cost of college.

 

Not sure what I think about the author's premise, at least as portrayed in the article. Broad brush statements are just that. I think that many students can attend private schools for about the cost or less than a public university. So I am always a bit suspicious when private colleges are dismissed under the assumption that they are more expensive. On paper, yes. In reality, not necessarily.

 

Jane

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I won't argue the point that today's school is a higher percentage. What I disliked on college visits was having college counselors send out this message that we parents were responsible for footing the total bill, no matter what the cost. All of it. The kids were never told or advised that they might need to work to help pay for a bit of this expense. Or that they should try for this scholarship or that loan to help defer the cost. IMHO, that part of the message needs to be there too.

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Right, Carole, but keep in mind that when we were students, tuition and books required a smaller percentage of income than they do today. Once upon a time students were able to pay a significant percentage of their costs through summer employment. Today, students are lucky to earn two thousand dollars in a summer. That does not go very far toward the cost of college.

 

Not sure what I think about the author's premise, at least as portrayed in the article. Broad brush statements are just that. I think that many students can attend private schools for about the cost or less than a public university. So I am always a bit suspicious when private colleges are dismissed under the assumption that they are more expensive. On paper, yes. In reality, not necessarily.

 

Jane

 

Jane -

 

Would you share how students may be able to attend private schools for the same cost as public? After looking at the costs, I've just assumed private schools will be out of our reach.

 

Lisa

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Last year my DS was accepted by 2 public schools and 7 private schools. Most of the private schools offered really nice merit scholarships that made them comparable in price to our in-state public school.

 

Then the in-state public school shocked us by offering DS a tremendous merit scholarship ---- substantially larger than what we expected. Substantially larger than what friend's kids in the same major had received. Then, out of the blue, he won another scholarship from the local engineering society that can only be used at the local university....... That's why he's going local rather than to the out-of-state private schools. If the local in-state public had offered him what we thought he'd be off at a private school. It would have been about equal.

 

Don't rule out the privates.

 

Carole

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I won't argue the point that today's school is a higher percentage. What I disliked on college visits was having college counselors send out this message that we parents were responsible for footing the total bill, no matter what the cost. All of it. The kids were never told or advised that they might need to work to help pay for a bit of this expense. Or that they should try for this scholarship or that loan to help defer the cost. IMHO, that part of the message needs to be there too.

 

This was not our experience except at one school where we felt both the student guide and the admissions counselor were, well, arrogant. They acted as though parents should move the earth and stars if their little darling was accepted at the school.

 

At another school we visited at the end of junior year, the admissions counselor specifically addressed requirements for merit awards and the availability of work study.

 

To be honest, I can't speak to how finances were addressed at the other schools since my son visited them on his own after he was accepted and given merit aid at two. At a third, he visited when competing for a merit scholarship.

 

The college which my son will attend has additional grants available for student research and travel. We learned about these during the June registration session. Perhaps not every college expects parents to have deep pockets?

 

Jane

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Jane -

 

Would you share how students may be able to attend private schools for the same cost as public? After looking at the costs, I've just assumed private schools will be out of our reach.

 

Lisa

 

Lisa,

 

Your income, family size, etc. will determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Some private colleges promise to meet all need based on the EFC or on their variation of the financial formula. Other private colleges offer students generous merit aid or grants to make the school affordable. My advice is to look at the federal data at IPEDS. See what the average financial award is and what percentage of students receive some sort of assistance. This might clue you in on whether a college is generous with aid. You might want to read the thread that Joan in Geneva started concerning this subject.

 

Jane

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Jane -

 

Would you share how students may be able to attend private schools for the same cost as public? After looking at the costs, I've just assumed private schools will be out of our reach.

 

Lisa

 

My son is one of these I think. He wants to become a microfinance manager with a Christian microfinance firm. Therefore, for his major, he needs a combo of business or economics (has to be able to run a bank) with emphasis on development in third world countries. When we started looking at and visiting colleges, it was clear that his philosophy meshed much better with Christian private schools than secular places. I worried about cost, but let him apply to schools he liked knowing we wouldn't be able to pay anything close to sticker cost.

 

His testing scores and grades put him in the top 3 - 5% of college bound students (not top of the top like National Merit students, but not too bad either).

 

So... he got merit scholarship offers based on his scores at every school he applied to. Then he went to a scholarship competition at his #1 school and LOST named scholarships we were hoping to get (note, there were roughly 200 kids competing for 23 or so scholarships - competition is tough). If he had won at this school, 60% of his tuition and some other extras would have been paid for. If he had won at his 2nd choice school, up to 100% of all costs would have been paid for - or lesser amounts pending what he won.

 

So, we started thinking about back up choices. Then his aid package to #1 came in. Even without big named scholarships to his name, they offered lesser amounts (still scholarships) both in his major and overall that added up to most of his tuition. They also gave him need-based federal loans (totaling $5000/year) and work study helping to cover room and board.

 

Back at home, he applied for local scholarships - lost some, but also won some - based on his major, his scores, and where he wants to go to school (but not specifically where - just generally - one had to be a Christian College, one had to be a private school).

 

In the end, it's turning out that we are almost paying more for my middle son to take 2 cc courses while living at home (that's $1500 for us - per semester) than we are for my oldest to attend his private Christian college while staying there. Right now we've accepted his gov't loans, but, if plans work out as we hope they do, he won't actually need them and we'll have them paid off prior to his graduation. However, with the economy the way it is... we're just trying to stay safe.

 

If he had chosen to go in state to a public school, I'm not totally sure what he would have been offered financially, but he wouldn't have had the specific degree he wanted (not offered there - business yes, but not the development degree). It also wouldn't have been taught with the same philosophy in mind. And, he probably wouldn't have the e-mail from the company he wants to work for telling him to "remember them when it comes time for his internship." For his development degree, profs at this school are among the "who's who" in the field.

 

Then too, it wouldn't be nearly as good a "fit" for him. The school he's chosen (Covenant College in GA) is a small Christian school (roughly 1000 students) where everyone is close knit (Profs too). When we visited public state schools my son was "ok" but wasn't all that thrilled with their size, etc. When he visited Covenant he knew that's where he wanted to be.

 

Naturally, this is just one student. My middle son is now considering his options. He's likely to want science research or medicine. The main thing I've told him based on our older son's experience is that "nothing" is off the table for his choices. (Almost nothing, I do eliminate some places due to their not meeting my standards for academics or for political indoctrination - this still leaves oodles of options, both public and private.)

 

I also tell him to have choices at the end, but know that finances are likely to have a big voice in choosing his final selection. He wants grad school afterward. He can't have much, if any, undergrad debt. He's also fortunate that he could be in the top 1% for scores. Time will tell with the actual testing.

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Would you share how students may be able to attend private schools for the same cost as public? After looking at the costs, I've just assumed private schools will be out of our reach.

 

In general (and this is a gross generalization), private colleges have more money available for merit aid than public colleges.

 

My kids are both attending a very expensive private college for less than it would cost if they lived at home and attended the public college down the street from us.

 

YMMV, but don't rule out private colleges!

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