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s/o Cautionary Tale/high college costs -- a brainstorm $$ ideas thread!


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I'd love to read some tips on narrowing down college choices. DS has been looking into colleges with strong programs in his desired area of study, but there are so many options it is overwhelming. Plus, the highly competitive schools stand out, of course, and it is easy for him to stay focused on them! How do we start looking for good match school? Ack!

 

Many people (including myself) ask for suggestions on college confidential. Right now might not get you as many suggestions as many seniors are on there asking about choosing between acceptances, but you could try.

 

Generally, you need to post desired major, GPA, test scores (ACT/SAT, AP, etc) and type of preferred school (LAC, Research U, etc) and preferred locations (urban, rural, east, west, middle, etc). Then post whether you are looking for merit and/or need based aid.

 

There's a wealth of info on there.

 

Otherwise, some of what we've done is check with people doing jobs my guys want to do and see where they recommend going to college or where they hire from. Then I check the data on the school (and how much aid one could try for, etc). If the people aren't local enough to ask, we e-mailed. Everyone was willing to offer a suggestion of some sort - just make sure your son e-mails, not you!

 

When asking about the hiring, often a totally different list can come up. Hiring (first job, out of college hiring) tends to come from local/regional colleges. Around here, Penn State and Virginia Tech get looked at more closely for engineers. Other schools - not so much - at least - in my hubby's field. Change the location and other schools become more popular. All are good schools - just their location acts as a feeder to various employers.

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And what exactly IS your zipcode? Is it a negative number? LOL

 

But seriously, I just want to wish everyone good luck.

 

New England also has various half way between in-state and out-of-state options. Sometimes there is cc money for stem degrees, also.

 

Nan

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...When asking about the hiring, often a totally different list can come up. Hiring (first job, out of college hiring) tends to come from local/regional colleges. Around here, Penn State and Virginia Tech get looked at more closely for engineers. Other schools - not so much - at least - in my hubby's field. Change the location and other schools become more popular. All are good schools - just their location acts as a feeder to various employers.

 

Since we are talking about hope...

Sometimes, state schools have a better reputation than elite private schools among the people who do the hiring. It depends on the field, of course, but sometimes the hirers have had a bad experience. Right-out-of-college new hires are often hired because the hirer is looking for someone cheap to do some boring grunt-work. A student who has been doing interesting research at an elite school may not work very hard at a job that doesn't make full use of his intelligence and creativity. Unfortunately, many jobs won't. Even interesting jobs may not. Some of the interesting ones require starting from scratch and doing lots of things on your own, without any resources or labs. In those jobs, one has to do a lot of the boring work oneself. (It goes the other way, too a student from a state school who hasn't had the opportunity to do research or creative projects or use expensive equipment or travel may need a lot of help when faced with a job requiring those things.)

 

About how to pick a college - there are search engines which can be helpful. The college board site has one (I liked the old format better) and Jane in NC has posted a government one that I have found very helpful. Our high school also has a site designed to help students choose an appropriate path. That one is much more sophisticated and requires logging in and giving lots of information, so I haven't bothered, but if I had had a student who wasn't sure what he wanted to do, I think it would have been helpful. It has things to do at each stage of high school, career choosing things as well as college choosing things. You might check with your local high school guidance councilor (sp?). I have found ours friendly and helpful.

 

Nan

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This may have been mentioned (I have only read to the end of page 3 so far). But My kids will be doing apprenticeships during high school and for the 2 years out of high school before they go on to college. By the end of those 2 years after high school they will have completed 4 years of apprenticeship and be getting paind journeyman wages. They can work to pay for college then, and during each 4 months summer as well as having a fall back if what ever they study in college turns out to be useless in a bad economy etc. In my province at least they have a high school registered apprenticeship program specifically designed for high school students to get the work hours needed to attend technical training after high school graduation. For ever 1 year of working as an apprentice, students take 6-8 weeks of technical training per year and get paid employment insurance when they do so they are getting paid to train. At the end of high school RAP students generally have enough hours to do year 1 and 2 of technical training, meaning they only need 2 addition years to be done a 4 year apprenticeship and making $25+ an hour.

 

All of my kids know this is expected of them. They must work during high school and an apprenticeship gives more practical experience and more money than flipping burgers some place. As well as a single mom I can not contribute much to their educations and do not want them to be piling on debt.

 

In addition I am pushing for them to choose a college/uni in either the city we used to live in so they can live with extended family for free or in the next town over so they can keep living at home for free. That is pretty much the only help I can give. Free room and board. My extended family has told the kids the same thing, get into one of those colleges and they will billet them for free. That alone will save a ton of money and leave us only dealing with tuition, books and transportation.

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Apropos of nothing, I've heard that the more elite the school the less likely they are to accept APs for college credit. APs are "college-level classes" when the student is in high school, but not so much at Stanford.

 

Just keep that in mind for anyone hoping to place out of stuff to get through faster.

 

Yes, less likely, but I wouldn't rule it out for a couple of reasons. First, having the APs (or SAT IIs or college courses) can be a vital part of getting through the admissions process successfully.

 

Also, many of these colleges offer more AP credit or more placement of classes than people may guess. Here's a couple of examples of top colleges that provide quite a lot of credit for APs.

Duke: http://trinity.duke.edu/academic-requirements?p=ap-credit-by-department

Cornell: http://cals.cornell.edu/cals/current/registrar/current-students/upload/Advanced-Placement-2010_2011-2.pdf

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I'd love to read some tips on narrowing down college choices. DS has been looking into colleges with strong programs in his desired area of study, but there are so many options it is overwhelming. Plus, the highly competitive schools stand out, of course, and it is easy for him to stay focused on them! How do we start looking for good match school? Ack!

 

If he hasn't already done so start with a few visits of different types of schools - a bit state school, a small private school, etc. Sometimes just spending some times on campuses, even if they aren't all the schools he's considering, starts to clarify what is important.

 

Also, if he has some strong direction in his major, he should spend some time on college websites really reading about the courses offered, the requirements for the major, looking at the research interests of faculty.

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Otherwise, some of what we've done is check with people doing jobs my guys want to do and see where they recommend going to college or where they hire from. Then I check the data on the school (and how much aid one could try for, etc). If the people aren't local enough to ask, we e-mailed. Everyone was willing to offer a suggestion of some sort - just make sure your son e-mails, not you!

 

When asking about the hiring, often a totally different list can come up. Hiring (first job, out of college hiring) tends to come from local/regional colleges. Around here, Penn State and Virginia Tech get looked at more closely for engineers. Other schools - not so much - at least - in my hubby's field. Change the location and other schools become more popular. All are good schools - just their location acts as a feeder to various employers.

 

 

 

 

About how to pick a college - there are search engines which can be helpful. The college board site has one (I liked the old format better) and Jane in NC has posted a government one that I have found very helpful. Our high school also has a site designed to help students choose an appropriate path. That one is much more sophisticated and requires logging in and giving lots of information, so I haven't bothered, but if I had had a student who wasn't sure what he wanted to do, I think it would have been helpful. It has things to do at each stage of high school, career choosing things as well as college choosing things. You might check with your local high school guidance councilor (sp?). I have found ours friendly and helpful.

 

Nan

 

If he hasn't already done so start with a few visits of different types of schools - a bit state school, a small private school, etc. Sometimes just spending some times on campuses, even if they aren't all the schools he's considering, starts to clarify what is important.

 

Also, if he has some strong direction in his major, he should spend some time on college websites really reading about the courses offered, the requirements for the major, looking at the research interests of faculty.

 

 

Thanks for all the great suggestions. :)

DS has started doing a few of these things. I feel as though he is already so busy in 9th grade, I can hardly imagine him having much time in 11th grade to do a lot of college research. He is pretty sure he would like to go to graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. DH (who is a Prof at our state Univ) goes on about how where you get your undergrad degree is less important than your grad degree, but DS still has his hopes set pretty high for undergraduate studies.

 

We did poke around a bit on the college board site for picking a college and we found the search parameters difficult to navigate. Seems as though we either ended up with 1000 schools or three. I guess we need to fine tune it a bit more.

 

We have a couple of schools within an easy morning drive to check out near us. Off to check the websites for how to schedule a visit. Seems so early to do so, but I think it would help me sleep better at night, if nothing else.

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Reading "Debt Free U" book here. Not a perfect book, but a good motivator to match your schooling with what you & child can actually afford.

 

I enjoyed this book too. As you said, not perfect. For example, there are states where the in state options are either competitive/expensive or lower quality. But it did challenge some of my assumptions about what I should be looking at in a school.

 

I would also recommend Crazy U, which was a reminder of how much colleges were considering me a consumer to whom they were marketing a product.

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There are two more ways of getting a free/almost free education here in the US - signing up for ROTC or joining the military and using the GI Bill after the enlistment period is finished. The ROTC usually covers most of the costs of college (plus a living stipend), and in return the student has a paying job for the first four years out of college (albeit one with the chance of overseas deployment in a combat zone). The GI Bill is not free (the serviceman/woman pays a small amount into it for a short period of time at the beginning of the enlistment), but it is free money once the veteran goes to college, and it does not count as income when the EFC is being calculated or on an income tax return.

 

These are not always popular choices, but they are valid ones. I used my GI Bill to get my B.A. and did not have to take out one loan - I graduated completely debt-free (and I served before 9/11, so I had a much lower GI Bill than is currently available).

 

ROTC scholarship status right now is very competitive. The service requirement upon graduation depends on the needs of the service when you sign your contract, as well as what branch you go into (The Navy is 5 years active, 4 years active for nurses, with additional years in the Reserves if you don't stay on active duty. The committment for Naval Aviation is longer.) On the other hand, some services (Army in particular) are offering to buy out the contracts of seniors with ROTC scholarships. They might get one year base pay in return for not being commissioned. But that means no job upon graduation.

 

In short, what might have been true about ROTC 20 years, 10 years or even 5 years ago may well not be true at the moment. Do your research, ask lots of questions and don't make assumptions based on what someone tells you from their experience "back in the day".

 

This is one of my favorite entry portals for ROTC info. Also be aware that there are specific recruiters for officer programs and even particular recruiters for medical specialties and some other special branches. Don't assume that what you are told by a general recruiter is the full story with all of the detail, even if they are trying their best to be helpful.

 

I think military service is a great career starter. But it's not the reliable Plan B that it might have been in years past. (Since I don't hang out on the General Board much, I'll add that my undergraduate was through a military program and that I spent many years in the Navy.)

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8 Tuition Free Colleges

 

10 College and U's tuition free (overlap between the two but the info is different)

 

I The New Global Student, too. More ideas about how to think outside the box re: college.

 

DD will grad in 7 days with a Cosmetology degree. She's had 3 job offers already and plans to work through an R.N. program, which she'll start in the fall.

Oldest traveled abroad for a couple of years before college. She was conversant in 3 other languages and had raised around $20K to fund her pursuits. Colleges look VERY favorably on that type of activity (fund raising, travel and linguistic ability) and are willing to back it with scholarships.

Edited by laughing lioness
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For people who are interested in pursuing community college, I suggest this website as one place to begin: http://www2.aacrao.org/pro_development/transfer.cfm Many states have what are called "articulation agreements". These are basically a contract between community colleges and four year colleges (most often public institutions, but in some states some private schools participate as well. Right now there is a big federal push to improve the transfer process and states are adopting new agreements all the time. So, I would not go based on what somebody experienced in another state or in your own state years ago.

 

I've worked with transfers at our local community college. With a statewide articulation agreement it is definitely possible to complete a degree with two years at community college and two years at a state university. Students who earn an associate's of arts or associate's of science are certified to have fulfilled their general education requirements and they enter the four year school as juniors with 60 hours transferred.

 

I would strongly suggest if your student is interested in this route that he or she be encouraged to choose their major as early as possible. They should meet regularly with the transfer advising staff at the community college to make sure they are on track. It is important to register for the right classes and keep the GPA up. Many community colleges host regular visits from admissions officers or transfer advisers from state universities as well.

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And an idea slightly related to Barbara's post...

Check out the Tuition Exchange Program -- it is a type of scholarship you apply for. The website recommends beginning the process of applying one year BEFORE you want to potentially receive funds.
 

ISEP (300 schools in 50 countries)

NSE (200 schools in North/Eastern U.S., Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico)

MHEC (100 schools in 9 Midwestern states)

WUE and WICHE (200 schools in 16 Western U.S. states)

Edited by Lori D.
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Yes, the programs making it so students can get instate tuition can be a good deal. Some require students to be majoring in something they can't study in their home state (so you live in a landlocked area and want to study marine biology for example).

 

The Tuition Exchange Program is a good benefit for some higher ed employees because it may allow them a reduction in costs for their student to study at another institution. It is offered as a job benefit, but I will say the academic families I know who have tried to use it often find it is quite limited as it depends on the colleges making slots available.

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  • 8 months later...

This thread deserves a bump. There are two ongoing discussions on the cost of college, one on the College Board (here) and one on the K-8 Curriculum board (here).

 

Let me take this opportunity to applaud LoriD for the excellent compilation work she does for this community. :hurray:

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This thread deserves a bump. There are two ongoing discussions on the cost of college, one on the College Board (here) and one on the K-8 Curriculum board (here).

 

Let me take this opportunity to applaud LoriD for the excellent compilation work she does for this community. :hurray:

 

I agree w/all the above! And thanks to you, too, Jane!

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I am starting to tell everyone that is contemplating going to school at the Univeristy of Florida that they should go to CC first. Why? Because the first two years are spent taking classes to fulfill general education requirements that, for the most part, have nothing to do with your major. Most of the classes feel like high school courses...they are trying to make sure that each student has a well-rounded education. Certainly a lofty goal, but not at the expense of a rigorous education.

 

I am guessing that there are other universities/colleges that do this as well. I know that some schools have programs where students may be exempted from these courses, but if a student has to take some of these classes then they might as well receive the same education at a CC for much less expense.

 

I've also been telling everyone that lives local to dual enroll at UF (or Santa Fe CC) and get those classes out of the way for free. :) UF allows dual enrollment from 9th grade on. We moved here specifically so the kids could get most of their BA degrees free. UF also accepts up to 45 credits in CLEP/AP (as does FSU.) Most of the state CCs and universities allow free dual enrollment for at least the last two years of high school. Add in the Bright Futures scholarships and really the state university system is a very good deal in FL.

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  • 3 years later...

I work in a university admissions office, so I advise students on how to pay for college all the time! I didn't read through every post in this thread, but I assume that I probably don't have any new suggestions. But I can offer insight from an "insider".

 

Employee dependents at my university get free tuition. I work part time now but plan to go full time when my son is ready to enroll. 

 

Transferring from a community college is a great option BUT one thing most people don't take into consideration is that colleges often have different scholarship offerings depending on whether a student is a first-year student or a transfer student. At my institution, first year (right out of high school) students can qualify for $15K per year and in some cases more. But the largest transfer scholarship we give out is $7,500 per year. So I always advise concerned families to apply for admission while in high school and wait to see what their full scholarship/financial aid package looks like before ruling out four years here. Do the math and figure out if 2 years at CC + 2 years at U with smaller scholarship costs less than 4 years at U with larger scholarship. My institution is private so for most people, the CC option is still cheaper. BUT, I have worked with a few who qualified for our highest scholarships and also were federal Pell grant eligible, and 4 years with us turned out to be the better deal. 

 

Also regarding transfer - make sure you talk to the institution you want to transfer to to make sure the courses you are taking are transferable. A lot of people I talk to have their associate's degree and just assume they only have two years left with us. Not so. Other people got their advice from the transfer center at their CC and I'm sorry to say that they didn't always get correct information about us. It's always better to get your information straight from the institution that you are wanting to accept your credit.

 

The other thing a lot of people don't realize is that scholarships don't always go to the most deserving or the most needy. Scholarships that are coming directly from an institution are a recruitment tool. We have algorithms that help us figure out how little or how much we have to offer you to get you to enroll, based on your demographics. Scholarships are used to help shape the student body in whatever way that institution is trying to move, whether it be ethnic diversity, gender diversity, increased enrollment in smaller degree programs... it isn't always to the students with the highest grades. To understand how the game is played, you need to call the admissions office at the specific college you are looking at and ask. You might find out that if your student changes into a different major, he/she will qualify for an extra $5k per year. Also, a lot of colleges have an appeal process. So the initial offer isn't necessarily the final offer. At my institution, a student who submits a written request that an additional $2k per year will make the difference on whether or not he/she will be able to enroll will usually get it.

 

Also consider how many years it takes to graduate at the school you are looking at. We are more expensive than some of our competitors, but engineers can graduate in four years. Four years with us turns out to be cheaper than schools with a lower tuition, but because they're too crowded students end up taking six or seven years to get into all the classes they need. 

 

Not sure if this was mentioned, but ROTC scholarships pay a lot, particularly for students who are interested in programs that are in high demand by the military - usually technical degrees. 

 

Also take the time to look for external scholarships from other organizations. You always hear that money goes unclaimed every year because nobody applied. That has to be true because from my perspective, I work with very few students who have scholarships on their account from anyone other than us (or ROTC). I think people get overwhelmed because there are so many scholarships out there maybe they don't even know where to start. You have to go in with the attitude that this is your job and put in the time to fill out a gazillion applications. 

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  • 9 months later...

The two recent threads on "will you pay/not pay for your students' college" caused me to remember this thread. :) Bumping to update with a few new ideas and links:

 

Free Tuition:

"All the Places in the U.S. Where You Can Go to College for Free"

List by state of programs and requirements that provide at least 2 years free tuition at community colleges or universities. Most have very specific requirements such as:

- live in the area

- income level-dependent

- first generation to be college-bound

 

 

Scholarship links:

Automatic Full Tuition / Full Ride Scholarship list of colleges

list of schools with scholarships for PSAT National Merit finalists/semi-finalists

 

Search Engine website ($8 registration fee)

Generates list of automatic scholarships (partial & full) based on student test scores and GPA.

 

"List of Guaranteed Scholarships Based on SAT/ACT Scores"

"79 Colleges with Full Ride Scholarships"

Website articles listing schools with "automatic" scholarships based on test scores.

 

"Full Tuition Academic Scholarships"

FinAid website article which lists some specific schools and merit aid.

 

 

Companies with benefits that pay towards tuition:

Maximize your part time job pay by working for a company that also contributes towards paying for your college tuition on top of your paycheck:

Get Unbound: 33 Companies That Can Save You From College Debt

The Balance: 15 Companies That Off Tuition Reimbursement

 
 
Updated info from earlier posts in this thread:
- College Plus
is now Lumerit, and it now costs about $25,000 (rather than $13,000) to get the 4-year Bachelor's in about 2 years via distance courses and CLEP tests
 
are the U.S. government tuition scholarships that you "pay back" after college graduation with years of work as a civilian researcher for the U.S. military
 
 
Additional threads with more ideas:
Edited by Lori D.
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