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But "anything" would not work. You don't go to engineering grad school with an English or history degree.

I know someone who did a master's in eng. after realizing early on that teachimg public school wasnt something he could make a career out of. He had a lot of undergrad coursework to make up, but it went well. Good switch.

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Maybe for your area. In my area, the elimination of the honors/AP/IB courses and the $$ability to prep for the SAT means that students who would never be the top students academically if such opportunities existed are now looking as good on paper as the middle class brainiacs. They can and do get into tech programs at regional Ivy schools....they dont always grad in eng, but they do get in. The middle class brainiacs go to state u after cc.

 

What are these "regional Ivy schools" that admit students with no honors/AP/IB classes listed on their transcripts? 

 

In my research, I have found very few schools outside the top elite, that meet 100% financial need in the form of grants.  Many schools "meet" need in the form of loans. 

 

It would be very helpful to know the names of the "regional Ivy schools" that the low income students in your area that you talk about able to afford while the middle class brainiacs are unable to attend due to finances.

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Sorry, but I dont have permission from these students to give up their identity. You might want to look at the SAT ranges of these schools though, and see how many are getting in with 650s rather than 750+.

 

Money matters. Middle class kids here do not have the money to spend senior high school year self pay at the CC, much less pay for DE at the high school, nor can their parents homeschool...the COL is quite high now, even if they inherited the home.They dont have the money or the waiver for sat prep. They dont have the money or the scholarships for travel team, summer camp, etc. That would give them a national level ec. They go to state u and move on. If you want to believe otherwise, dont let me or anyone else who has described their undermatching experience burst your bubble. This is my last post on the subject here.

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I'm actually less worried about PonyGirl. She is the kind of student MIT would give their eye teeth for (she has no interest in MIT at the moment).

 

Interesting....would you mind elaborating? What characteristics make MIT a given for a certain kind of student? Maybe I'm a jaded cynic or perhaps I've misread your meaning (or both), but it seems to me the take home message from many posts, news articles, and books is that in the current college admissions game, the reality is this: good students are a given, great students are everywhere, and exceptional students are a dime a dozen. There are no guarantees. 

 

Or did you just mean that if such a student had the inclination to apply, she would be a qualified candidate, both academically and otherwise, for MIT?

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Sorry, but I dont have permission from these students to give up their identity. You might want to look at the SAT ranges of these schools though, and see how many are getting in with 650s rather than 750+.

 

Money matters. Middle class kids here do not have the money to spend senior high school year self pay at the CC, much less pay for DE at the high school, nor can their parents homeschool...the COL is quite high now, even if they inherited the home.They dont have the money or the waiver for sat prep. They dont have the money or the scholarships for travel team, summer camp, etc. That would give them a national level ec. They go to state u and move on. If you want to believe otherwise, dont let me or anyone else who has described their undermatching experience burst your bubble. This is my last post on the subject here.

I am not asking you to give the names of the students.  I am asking for you to list the names of the "regional Ivy" schools that low income kids in your area are able to afford when the middle class kids cannot. 

 

I am not disagreeing with your comment that the middle class kids go to the state U.  I am simply curious how the low income kids in your area are able to have "better" affordable options at the "regional Ivy" when they don't have the class rigor due to the elimination of honors/AP/IB and clearly don't have the money for all the extracurricular activities if the middle class kids in your area are not able to afford them.

 

Now that I have clarified my question and you know that I never wanted you to identify the students, will you be able to provide the names of the "regional Ivy" schools?

 

Fwiw, I do not want to appear combative.  I simply think naming these regional schools would be beneficial to those of us on this board as we search for affordable college options for our kids.

 

 

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Or did you just mean that if such a student had the inclination to apply, she would be a qualified candidate, both academically and otherwise, for MIT?

 

I meant the second.  Obviously, because of the caliber of students attracted to MIT, nothing is a given.  But given that she's a math & science girl, fairly well advanced and heading towards a male-dominated field, she will have an easier time setting herself apart than LEGOManiac will.  I don't honestly think MIT is going to actively court my daughter.  

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I feel like this topic is going a bit off-track.

 

College is way too expensive.  Certain demographics are having a much more challenging time figuring out how to attend/afford college. We're spending hours trying to find programs that will meet academic goals and financial needs.  Because of the way the FAFSA is set up, because of where we may reside (higher income, but much higher cost of living), there are many things out of reach.  

 

It is incredibly frustrating to spend this much time trying to sort through the myriad of schools/programs that might fit a child and then have to start cross-checking for available aid, requirements for that aid, likelihood of receiving aid, and then figuring out all of the other incidental costs.  THEN, having to spend hundreds of dollars in application fees to apply to potentially 2 dozen schools and then hope for the best.  Possibly to be horribly disappointed because a child doesn't get what is truly needed.

 

And that is on top of the hundreds of dollars in testing to prove my child is "worth" something (seriously...AP, CLEP, SAT2, PSAT/SAT, ACT, and then those unfortunate souls in the local public schools back home...SOL's on TOP of all of that in math, science and English).  SAT2's can't be replaced with APs, SAT2s you can't really score well on because everyone is taking them AFTER an AP, when it's supposed to show high-school knowledge.  

 

Kids with high stats getting turned down NOT from Ivy League colleges, but their "safety" schools.  Kids with high stats getting turned down from STATE U, because they are from "in state."

Kids in certain states being told NOT to apply because they are from the wrong demographic and not a legacy (yeah, that happened...not to my kid, but someone else's)

Kids who have gifts and talents that will, in actuality, be wasted at the local CC, where they could CLEP/AP out of all but a a few courses to earn an AA, but then are stuck paying the full-pay at State-U anyway, but nothing meaningful will transfer.

 

Universities spending more time upgrading "stuff" than worrying about offering great classes, with great professors.  Good grief, we are treating many of our college profs worse than high school teachers (at least high school teachers have pretty good job security).

 

Can't we mourn for being able to apply to about 5 colleges, knowing I could afford and get into any one of them without having to play all of these games, act like a martyr, or worse?

Can't we mourn for the kids who get into schools they really aren't qualified for or truly can't afford and then drop out?

Can't we mourn for the kids who do get in, work hard, take out what seems reasonable loan amounts and then don't have a job?

And on top of that, can't we mourn that a college degree has now turned into a piece of paper that is quickly becoming meaningless -- because *everyone* has to have one just to get their foot in the door?

Can't we mourn that it truly is easier for the pretty bright, hardwoking kid to find a good path through school they can afford than  more exceptional students with the same financial need?  For example, assuming she doesn't radically accelerate like her older sister, I can send Blondie to a local school, or my alma mater, and there will be zero issues with financing those choices.  BUT, PonyGirl and LEGOManiac don't have that option.  Okay, they could go there, pay nothing, but not study anything they are interested in -- because the school doesn't offer it.  

 

I'm sure there are more things about this broken system, but I have to get back to my kids.

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I have never heard the term "Regional Ivy" before and I've yet to see a student get into a school well below their (the school's) stats/classes/peers without a hook like sports or similar.  I'm sure there are a handful of the latter, but I've yet to see a single case of that happening from our school.

 

There are many things in life I could mourn as life is rarely like what we want it to be (just added a new sig line reflecting that).

 

I do not regret the time spent researching possible schools for my guys.  It was many, many hours and many schools fell from the list along the way.  Nothing is ever guaranteed, that's for sure, but sometimes it works.

 

Whether the potential reward is worth the work is something we all need to decide.

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Maybe for your area. In my area, the elimination of the honors/AP/IB courses and the $$ability to prep for the SAT means that students who would never be the top students academically if such opportunities existed are now looking as good on paper as the middle class brainiacs. They can and do get into tech programs at regional Ivy schools....they dont always grad in eng, but they do get in. The middle class brainiacs go to state u after cc.

Could you name a couple of college that are "regional Ivies"? I really don't understand what you mean by the term.

 

To put this in perspective, Penn had certain programs set up specifically to attract PA residents particularly those from "small communities". My ex-mining town turned Pittsburgh suburb qualified. Is this what you mean? Or do you mean public Ivies like UT Austin that draw large chunks of their student bodies from their states due to legislative mandates?

 

I'd also like to understand what type of test prep you are talking about. I planned to have T do the SAT blue book or its online version and play around on Khan Academy's SAT prep. None of this costs more than about $100. I get the feeling I'm missing the boat by a lot with this plan. What should I be looking at and how much money are we talking?

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There are many things in life I could mourn as life is rarely like what we want it to be (just added a new sig line reflecting that).

 

I do not regret the time spent researching possible schools for my guys.  It was many, many hours and many schools fell from the list along the way.  Nothing is ever guaranteed, that's for sure, but sometimes it works.

 

Whether the potential reward is worth the work is something we all need to decide.

 

The politically correct term for what I want to say is "check your privilege"

 

In order to spend those hours really understanding college admissions and financial aid...

 

You don't have to be at a paying job to make the rent and put food on the table

You have the educational background and internet access to do the research

You move in a social circle that knows how important this type of research is

The situation you needed to find actually existed in a reasonable number of accessible locations such that you could find choices

 

I am very glad that you have been able to find excellent college placements for your sons.  Our country is wasting many beautiful young minds who unfortunately were not born into families with their privileges.

 

We can mourn for those who can't navigate this ridiculous system despite their best efforts and the resources available in their own particular situations. We can mourn for those who have to work full time while studying, when in the past a part-time job would be enough to pay tuition. We can mourn for those who make it through with loans, and have to defer life plans such as starting a family because all their disposable income and then some goes to the student loan payments.

 

There, but for the grace of God, go all of our kids.

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The politically correct term for what I want to say is "check your privilege"

 

In order to spend those hours really understanding college admissions and financial aid...

 

You don't have to be at a paying job to make the rent and put food on the table

You have the educational background and internet access to do the research

You move in a social circle that knows how important this type of research is

The situation you needed to find actually existed in a reasonable number of accessible locations such that you could find choices

 

I am very glad that you have been able to find excellent college placements for your sons. Our country is wasting many beautiful young minds who unfortunately were not born into families with their privileges.

 

We can mourn for those who can't navigate this ridiculous system despite their best efforts and the resources available in their own particular situations. We can mourn for those who have to work full time while studying, when in the past a part-time job would be enough to pay tuition. We can mourn for those who make it through with loans, and have to defer life plans such as starting a family because all their disposable income and then some goes to the student loan payments.

 

There, but for the grace of God, go all of our kids.

The specifics of the demands of Creekland's aren't mine to share, but I think the "check your privilege" line is an ad homenium attack under the best of situations. It implies that because someone's experience is different than yours it's because they had some crypto status that conveyed an undeserved privilege.

 

There are dozens of decision points in every day. Day after day those decisions add up. No two people have identical situations. Nor is one family cursed by the gods while another is endlessly blessed. We all get up each day and make our best choices.

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The specifics of the demands of Creekland's aren't mine to share, but I think the "check your privilege" line is an ad homenium attack under the best of situations. It implies that because someone's experience is different than yours it's because they had some crypto status that conveyed an undeserved privilege.

 

There are dozens of decision points in every day. Day after day those decisions add up. No two people have identical situations. Nor is one family cursed by the gods while another is endlessly blessed. We all get up each day and make our best choices.

 

I do not mean it as an attack.  I'm sorry if that's how it was received.

 

But, I do mean it as something different than you are saying. Yes, day after day decisions add up, but many many people are helped or harmed by things over which they have no control over.

 

My kids did not decide to be born into their family history, They did not choose their parents, or their parents' education, ambition, work ethic, intelligence, skin color, income level, parenting methods, etc. They did not choose their country or the state and city where they live and the economic and educational opportunities that are available here. They did not choose to have health insurance when one of them needed expensive medical care. 

 

These things convey privileges that they did not in any way shape or form have to work to earn. Are these privileges as great as Bill Gates' kids have? No, they have a "step up" in some areas that others do not. Will they have a cushy ride in college? Not exactly, but they will have better opportunities than many others. Part of it is a function of how hard they worked and studied (some self-motivation, some parental nudging), but another part of it is privilege. I hope that they are humble enough to acknowledge that. Life is not fair in ways that mere individual decision making cannot correct.

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I'd also like to understand what type of test prep you are talking about. I planned to have T do the SAT blue book or its online version and play around on Khan Academy's SAT prep. None of this costs more than about $100. I get the feeling I'm missing the boat by a lot with this plan. What should I be looking at and how much money are we talking?

 

 

It makes sense to have your student familiarize themselves with whatever flavor of standardized test it is that they are taking. I've sent a kid in cold and it was okay because they were where they needed to be academically, but it would have been better if they had run through a practice test or two for pacing.

 

This kind of test prep, I understand.  I also understand spending good money for getting help for a child with severe test anxieties or other challenges, but who is academically where they need to be.

 

Sometimes I get the impression that parents expect SAT or ACT prep classes to make up for deficiencies in their child's education.  If you think your student is going to need help for the SAT essay, why not spend the money on a good  English class that will serve the student well long after the SAT is over?

 

That said, I think it's a really personal decision.  If I had to spend a fair amount of money on test prep for the ACT or SAT for my son to get into his top schools, I would personally feel as though I had failed him academically and was now applying a band aid. I'd also be terrified that even if he got the numbers to get in, that wouldn't necessarily mean he had the academic ability to stay there.

 

All that to say, your plan is sensible and has been used successfully by many, many board members.

 

If there are other factors like learning challenges, then that is a different conversation.

 

ETA: I know I really side-tracked here and that SAT/ACT scores are critical when money is on the line.

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There are dozens of decision points in every day. Day after day those decisions add up. No two people have identical situations. Nor is one family cursed by the gods while another is endlessly blessed. We all get up each day and make our best choices.

To be honest, sometimes it feels that way, though. You know it's not really true, but each beat down does make it that much harder to pick up and keep going.

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It makes sense to have your student familiarize themselves with whatever flavor of standardized test it is that they are taking. I've sent a kid in cold and it was okay because they were where they needed to be academically, but it would have been better if they had run through a practice test or two for pacing.

 

This kind of test prep, I understand. I also understand spending good money for getting help for a child with severe test anxieties or other challenges, but who is academically where they need to be.

 

Sometimes I get the impression that parents expect SAT or ACT prep classes to make up for deficiencies in their child's education. If you think your student is going to need help for the SAT essay, why not spend the money on a good English class that will serve the student well long after the SAT is over?

 

That said, I think it's a really personal decision. If I had to spend a fair amount of money on test prep for the ACT or SAT for my son to get into his top schools, I would personally feel as though I had failed him academically and was now applying a band aid. I'd also be terrified that even if he got the numbers to get in, that wouldn't necessarily mean he had the academic ability to stay there.

 

All that to say, your plan is sensible and has been used successfully by many, many board members.

 

If there are other factors like learning challenges, then that is a different conversation.

I agree. I sent both of my oldest in cold, because I wanted a real idea of where they were. Other than basic test taking strategies, there was zero prep. The results mirrored some of my expectations, but also surprised me in others. This was my strategy for really focusing on what we needed to do course-wise for the long term goals, not gaming a system.

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To be honest, sometimes it feels that way, though. You know it's not really true, but each beat down does make it that much harder to pick up and keep going.

I do understand that. I lived through some of those situations myself.

Medical bills are up my parents' savings. Multiple layoffs. Cross country move. Selling property to pay legal bills.

 

My kids have to contend with deployment, frequent moves, living far from friends and family.

 

My objection is that labeling one family as privileged discounts what they have done in response to those circumstances. It ignores the sacrifices and choices a family makes.

 

I can't control what may happen. I can control how we react to it.

 

That isn't to say that someone else is a failure because they are overwhelmed. Just that I find the check your privilege comment insulting and unhelpful.

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... if you have worked hard and have a stable life, hug your spouse, hug yourself, and be proud of the example you've set for your children.

 

Love this.

 

Not everyone has had those opportunities.

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In order to spend those hours really understanding college admissions and financial aid...

 

You don't have to be at a paying job to make the rent and put food on the table

You have the educational background and internet access to do the research

You move in a social circle that knows how important this type of research is

The situation you needed to find actually existed in a reasonable number of accessible locations such that you could find choices

 

 

I don't see any of the items mentioned except the last being a constraint on anyone in America these days. For many previous generations before the internet existed, immigrant families and poorer Americans have been able to find avenues for their children to excel and get to college while working two jobs despite a lack of English or little education. Now, with the internet, the cost of acquiring information is virtually zero. Everyone has some personal time outside of work to devote to research. Free or reduced cost internet is available and I don't put much weight on information from local social circles. Far better information can be garnered from specialized message boards like this one or college confidential. There are many gateway programs and scholarships to help poorer and minority students to college as well as open admissions community colleges. Do I believe there is a level playing field for all? No, but I think most of these items are easily surmountable when there is drive and determination. 

 

Lack of initiative, a culture of low expectations, and a failure to value education are far greater barriers than the ones you listed. Those three items exist at all levels of society and are far more difficult to surmount.

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The politically correct term for what I want to say is "check your privilege"

 

In order to spend those hours really understanding college admissions and financial aid...

 

You don't have to be at a paying job to make the rent and put food on the table

You have the educational background and internet access to do the research

You move in a social circle that knows how important this type of research is

The situation you needed to find actually existed in a reasonable number of accessible locations such that you could find choices

 

I am very glad that you have been able to find excellent college placements for your sons.  Our country is wasting many beautiful young minds who unfortunately were not born into families with their privileges.

 

We can mourn for those who can't navigate this ridiculous system despite their best efforts and the resources available in their own particular situations. We can mourn for those who have to work full time while studying, when in the past a part-time job would be enough to pay tuition. We can mourn for those who make it through with loans, and have to defer life plans such as starting a family because all their disposable income and then some goes to the student loan payments.

 

There, but for the grace of God, go all of our kids.

 

For one, my response was to fellow boardies to try to encourage them if they want to attempt to put the hours in.

 

Life isn't fair, nor are any of us positioned as Grand Pumba to make things work the way they are supposed to.  We can whine and complain about unfairness and stop, or we can feel down for a season (since we're human), but then buckle down and do the best we can while not giving up hope (and still having a Plan B).

 

You want a quick summary of our situation?  My parents were in a nasty divorce when I was 11 and they still aren't friends.  I went AFROTC to afford an OOS state U - OOS due to wanting to get away. I couldn't afford my top choice school. Hubby's dad was a tobacco foreman.  We met at college - in the Corps of Cadets at Va Tech.

 

With hubby being an engineer we were able to save for college, fully intending to pay for our boys.  We did not invest well and lost most of it during the economic downturn.  The rest we ended up living off of when our income was 1/3 of what we had before.

 

If MY boys were to go to college, I now HAD to educate myself and see how it would be possible.  I chose to do that and it worked.

 

I can't guarantee it will work for everyone on here, but I do know it's possible that it can happen - for us with basic student loans and continuing to live on roughly half our income.  I also tossed in a suggestion we found that can work for others and should cost less if they want to head that route.

 

But it would never have happened if I had just stayed in my misery at how life was unfair.

 

As for our country wasting good minds... more are wasted at the K-12 level IME.  That's another of life's unfairnesses.  I'm glad there is high need based aid for those who can overcome their circumstances.  That helps even out "privilege" in many ways.  I see it annually at school.  And I share what I've learned over my years (for free) to both kids/parents at school and on this board.

 

YMMV

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Here is an article about a young man who was accepted to all 8 Ivies and Stanford and turned them down due to finances and accepted a full-ride to UA.  He was accepted into the Fellows program which has a different focus than the research program our ds was accepted into, but what the university offers the students accepted into these programs is pretty darn amazing.  Even though they are not abundant, full-ride opportunities do exist and really high performing kids can find low cost opportunities.  

 

http://www.businessinsider.com/ronald-nelson-turned-down-every-ivy-league-school-for-university-of-alabama-2015-5?utm_content=bufferce088&utm_medium=social&utm_source=****&utm_campaign=buffer

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Here is an article about a young man who was accepted to all 8 Ivies and Stanford and turned them down due to finances and accepted a full-ride to UA.  He was accepted into the Fellows program which has a different focus than the research program our ds was accepted into, but what the university offers the students accepted into these programs is pretty darn amazing.  Even though they are not abundant, full-ride opportunities do exist and really high performing kids can find low cost opportunities.  

 

http://www.businessinsider.com/ronald-nelson-turned-down-every-ivy-league-school-for-university-of-alabama-2015-5?utm_content=bufferce088&utm_medium=social&utm_source=****&utm_campaign=buffer

 

Great article.  UA is definitely on our list of possibilities.

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Here is an article about a young man who was accepted to all 8 Ivies and Stanford and turned them down due to finances and accepted a full-ride to UA.  He was accepted into the Fellows program which has a different focus than the research program our ds was accepted into, but what the university offers the students accepted into these programs is pretty darn amazing.  Even though they are not abundant, full-ride opportunities do exist and really high performing kids can find low cost opportunities.  

 

http://www.businessinsider.com/ronald-nelson-turned-down-every-ivy-league-school-for-university-of-alabama-2015-5?utm_content=bufferce088&utm_medium=social&utm_source=****&utm_campaign=buffer

 

I just read this article. What a refreshing perspective this young man brings to the college application process. He sets an incredible example and highlights what is wrong with the cost of higher education in America better than any parent bemoaning the cost of college today. Wow!

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Great article.  UA is definitely on our list of possibilities.

 

It was one of ours too.  Had middle son not had something he liked better that was affordable to us, he'd have been there even though he wouldn't have had his first choice major (as they don't have it).

 

One can try for many things, and sometimes they work, but if not, one needs a Plan B.

 

If youngest's school hadn't worked out for him, his Plan B was going to be a gap year and working.  He fully knew that.

 

When the Hive shares info about options whether it's UA or Nova Southeastern or cc scholarship options - we all "win" in that we can glean info potentially helpful to us.

 

I OFTEN recommend our cc to students/parents at my high school if they are looking for certain paths (like nursing or medical technicians, but others too).  Middle son took DE classes with several in the nursing program.  Every single one of them who passed is employed now and doing well.  He keeps in touch with them (socially) and will be using them to figure out some shadowing opportunities for the few weeks he's home.  Some could have gone to private schools for nursing, but the cost would have been oodles more (for many).

 

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I hear you and we are there too.  Fortunately, our oldest dd got merit aid and it has a been a huge relief not to have to worry about her.  We have 2 more behind her though.   Dual enrollment and AP courses have helped lower the cost too.

 

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It took me 11 1/2 years to complete my bachelor's degree.  I qualified for no need-based aid somehow, not even when I was on my own, working 70+ hours per week at low-pay jobs (the only ones available) trying to save money to go back to college.  After a 1 year interruption and another 4 1/2 year interruption trying to save college money I finally realized I would never be able to save enough.  I maxed out all student loan options and worked 30 hours per week at 3 different jobs (one a merit work study job) while carrying a full credit load, and I begged the financial aid office for a little more help so I could actually attend field school one summer.  (I could only afford to pay for it if I didn't go and stayed in town working.)  I got just enough help that summer, but I still graduated with more than $30,000 in student loan debt accrued over 2 years.  It would have been more, except my brother died and my "share" of his life insurance money paid for my final year.

 

Talk to the financial aid officers, and keep talking to them periodically.  Spell out the particulars of the family's financial situation.  Doing so got me a work study job for one semester at my first college -- not a lot of help, but it was enough to fill an important gap and let me finish that semester before taking time off of college.  Pleading my case later also convinced an aid officer to apply to a "reserved" scholarship on my behalf -- it turns out my university (like many, apparently) holds a few small scholarships in reserve for later in the school year to help some student(s) out with later opportunities or issues, like my chance to attend field school.

 

Because of my experiences with student loan debt my sister worked very hard and, with some assistance from us, was able to get her PhD and come out of it debt-free.  It took far too long, however, because she spent many years in the workplace trying to gather funds, like I did.  Now she has only a very short time (less than 20 years) to make enough to save sufficient funds for her retirement.

 

This right here is another, often unconsidered cost of the high tuition rates.  Students often either delay or interrupt their college studies due to financial concerns.  Delays and interruptions lessen their likelihood of returning at all, and of those that do most are significantly older when they finally complete their degrees.  This older age makes them a bit less enticing to employers, and also gives them less time to build the financial savings needed for their retirement and their own kids' educations.

 

It has become a gigantic Catch-22.

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I hear you and we are there too.  Fortunately, our oldest dd got merit aid and it has a been a huge relief not to have to worry about her.  We have 2 more behind her though.   Dual enrollment and AP courses have helped lower the cost too.

 

My niece and nephew hope to have enough in dual credit classes to take care of their first two years of college before they complete high school.  Without that and a boatload of financial aid they don't stand much chance of affording college at all.

 

My eldest is in 7th grade right now, but if she can manage to pull off something similar it will certainly help on the affordability.  There is no possible way she will qualify for any need-based financial aid, so we are trying to save what we can for it.  We know the dangers of robbing retirement to pay for kids' college, but it seems like there's almost no choice sometimes.  We have a bit of time, though, to work it out.  Right now I need to get her set up to do well in high school so college opportunities are possible.

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I'm reminded of an article about a first gen college student from Texas who was accepted to and went off to Emory. There were a bunch of parts that frustrated me, but especially when the farticle touched on the financial aid from the school. They had calculated a high EFC and the family signed up for loans. When the article authors pressed on the mismatch between the family financial situation and the EFC (there was an obvious error or problem), the response was that if they had appealed there would have been a recalculation and the corrected EFC would have been much lower. I wondered how they were supposed to know the assumption that went into the first calculation and that it would be any better if appealed.

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We know the dangers of robbing retirement to pay for kids' college, but it seems like there's almost no choice sometimes.

I think this is another huge thing that has changed. Our parents had company pensions and social security. Today, everyone is expected to save for their own retirement and expect that social security benefits will constantly be recalculated to reduce the amounts paid to each wave of retirees. If your company still offers a pension, it can be eliminated if there is a merger or bankrupcy, so you can't count on that, either.

 

When the financial aid system says you're only allowed about $40,000 in savings/assets before they consider the funds as disposable income available for tuition, that's not really enough for retirement at all.

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I'd also like to understand what type of test prep you are talking about. I planned to have T do the SAT blue book or its online version and play around on Khan Academy's SAT prep. None of this costs more than about $100. I get the feeling I'm missing the boat by a lot with this plan. What should I be looking at and how much money are we talking?

 

I want to make very sure that it is clear I am not in any way suggesting that you "should be" looking at any test prep other than what you have planned. However, I suspect that what the previous poster was referring to was in-person, one-on-one tutoring programs that work with students to try and improve test scores. 

 

The most basic, no-frills such program at the tutoring center in your local strip mall will be 10 or 12 hours of one-on-one tutoring, plus a couple of practice exams administered in as close to actual test conditions as possible and will cost $30-40 per hour, minimum.

 

The "recommended" program at a similar center will include 50 - 60+ hours of tutoring and practice, again at a rate of $30 - 40 per hour.

 

There are any number of more elite (and more expensive) options out there, some of which can cost multiple hundreds of dollars per hour. 

 

This book has a couple of chapters devoted to the test prep industry: http://perfectscoreproject.com/the-book/ 

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I have not finished reading this thread, but it's very informative. I have struggled to make ends meet through my children's childhood and homeschooling (I was a SAHM for all these years), and we lived on a very tiny income that most people I knew would not live on - we lived a very barebones and simple lifestyle. I finally divorced (for my health and sanity) and my kids have been much better off for it, and I went back to work full time, which broke my heart because I so loved homeschooling. My oldest is now attending CC now and my youngest is using Univ of Nebraska's high school program. It's very difficult alone just trying to get the work done and deal with the finances, let alone worry about college. I have one car and we have to share it. Their dad contributes nothing. I am terrified about how I will help them get through college. I know I must sound scattered right now, but I guess I do feel scattered. My boys are everything to me and I want more than anything to help them get through college.

 

PinkyandtheBrains, I hope you find financial stability soon. I am sorry you are going through that and hope you do not end up homeless. It could happen to any one of us.

 

Right now I am trying to face our situation head on with honesty. My oldest wants to attend a private Christian school and my youngest wants to attend our local state university. I have been afraid to deal with these things, but I have to. I have no idea how I can possibly help him get into a school that costs over 41k per year. sigh...

 

Thanks for letting me vent a little here. I appreciate the wisdom here.

 

I am trying to be brave.

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I want to make very sure that it is clear I am not in any way suggesting that you "should be" looking at any test prep other than what you have planned. However, I suspect that what the previous poster was referring to was in-person, one-on-one tutoring programs that work with students to try and improve test scores. 

 

The most basic, no-frills such program at the tutoring center in your local strip mall will be 10 or 12 hours of one-on-one tutoring, plus a couple of practice exams administered in as close to actual test conditions as possible and will cost $30-40 per hour, minimum.

 

The "recommended" program at a similar center will include 50 - 60+ hours of tutoring and practice, again at a rate of $30 - 40 per hour.

 

There are any number of more elite (and more expensive) options out there, some of which can cost multiple hundreds of dollars per hour. 

 

This book has a couple of chapters devoted to the test prep industry: http://perfectscoreproject.com/the-book/ 

 

FWIW, oldest son got very good scores with limited test prep (as in, he didn't want to prepare much even though we had books here).  Middle son prepped totally on his own using a couple of books I bought and others from the library.  He got tippy top scores.

 

One does not NEED to spend thousands.  Motivation of the student counts for quite a bit.

 

Right now I am trying to face our situation head on with honesty. My oldest wants to attend a private Christian school and my youngest wants to attend our local state university. I have been afraid to deal with these things, but I have to. I have no idea how I can possibly help him get into a school that costs over 41k per year. sigh...

 

Thanks for letting me vent a little here. I appreciate the wisdom here.

 

I am trying to be brave.

 

The bad news is that your ex's income is most likely going to count whether he contributes or not.  The not-so-bad news is that many (or most, pending school) people are not full pay at those high sticker value schools.

 

I suggest you get on each school's financial aid webpage and start seeing what is there for merit and/or need based aid options.  See what kind of stats are needed for merit aid if they list that info.  Feel free to send any direct questions to them via e-mail since you know exactly which schools would be first choice.  Financial aid offices we've been in touch with (as long as you're speaking to an adult) have been very pleasant to work with.

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One does not NEED to spend thousands.  Motivation of the student counts for quite a bit.

 

 

Agreed. 

 

If you poke around the various sites for test tutoring and coaching, you will see that one of the top benefits they all mention is that the student is scheduled and held accountable - in other words, you are paying for a lot of poking and prodding. Sure, that's a benefit, but it's also nothing one can't do on their own. 

 

You can also find plenty of studies and links stating that extensive prep is only marginally helpful.

 

I think that affluent students making huge gains in testing thanks to pricey prep is a myth, much like the myth that says families that blow their savings on vacations and fancy cars will have aid money raining down on them. It simply isn't true. 

 

Here's one interesting link: 

 

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB124278685697537839

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I think this is another huge thing that has changed. Our parents had company pensions and social security. Today, everyone is expected to save for their own retirement and expect that social security benefits will constantly be recalculated to reduce the amounts paid to each wave of retirees. If your company still offers a pension, it can be eliminated if there is a merger or bankrupcy, so you can't count on that, either.

 

When the financial aid system says you're only allowed about $40,000 in savings/assets before they consider the funds as disposable income available for tuition, that's not really enough for retirement at all.

 

Yes, I often think about this, especially because DH could be forced into retirement at any time. Thankfully he'll receive a pension if that happens, but nothing like what my parents received.  

 

The formulas don't take into account "likely will happen" scenarios.  I brought this up with each school, and they said that they can't take that into account.  If there's a big drop in parental income, they said to ask for a re-evaluation, but no guarantees. 

 

My parents saved for my kid's college education, but their estate will likely never settle. I don't wish to spend any more funds and time given that three different lawyers told me to move on with my life.  

 

It really is a shame, but there it is!

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The bad news is that your ex's income is most likely going to count whether he contributes or not. The not-so-bad news is that many (or most, pending school) people are not full pay at those high sticker value schools.

 

Actually, I've heard that if you're divorced, the FAFSA at least only counts the custodial parent's income/assets. If you remarry, though, the stepparent's (new spouse of custodial parent) assets/income are considered.

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Actually, I've heard that if you're divorced, the FAFSA at least only counts the custodial parent's income/assets. If you remarry, though, the stepparent's (new spouse of custodial parent) assets/income are considered.

This is my understanding as well. Full disclaimer: Mine is still young and this is only starting to ping on my radar as something I need to start learning about. I know zero BTDT experience.

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Google helped here.  FAFSA doesn't require it, private colleges often do.  It will depend upon the specific schools at that point.

 

"Is the non-custodial parent required to help pay for college?

The Federal government does not consider the income and assets of the non-custodial parent in determining a student's financial need. However, it does consider child support received by the custodial parent.

 

Many private colleges do consider the non-custodial parent as a potential source of support, and require a supplemental financial aid form from the non-custodial parent. This affects the awarding of the school's own aid, but not Federal and state aid."

 

http://www.finaid.org/questions/divorce.phtml

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FWIW, oldest son got very good scores with limited test prep (as in, he didn't want to prepare much even though we had books here).  Middle son prepped totally on his own using a couple of books I bought and others from the library.  He got tippy top scores.

 

One does not NEED to spend thousands.  Motivation of the student counts for quite a bit.

 

Oh, no, I completely agree. The previous poster asked what she was "missing," what more "test prep" might involve than what she had planned and why it would be expensive. I was simply answering that question. not saying such measures are necessary or appropriate for all or even most students.

 

The fact is, though, that if you have two students, each of whom begins with similar mediocre scores and a similar level of motivation, and one studies independently using free or inexpensive resources while the other gets 20+ hours of professional, one-on-one tutoring that attempts to address the student's specific areas of relative weakness, it's likely that the second student will see a bigger boost in scores.

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Thank-you to everyone who has posted, shared resources and experiences. I've shared much of it with dh and ds- it has been helpful to know that we are in good company and that there are more options to research and choose from. 

 

 

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Ds has good ACT scores, 1 year + college under belt- Dean's list. He's also white and we make great money. We also have had several disasters occur in life and don't have college funds for kids - of which we have 5. So, kids aren't eligible for need based assistance, and we don't have thousands to give them.

We know people making 1/3 of what we make and their kids go almost free. Ds can get opportunity scholarships but they are often 1/4- 1/3 tuition, leaving over $20K/ year.

For now he works and pays state school tuition while living at home. He works and studies and works and studies. It's not terrible but it's a bit uninspiring.

Just so frustrated for him- he is such a hard worker and feeling bad as he watches friend after friend leave for their cushy private school.

Never mind.

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Google helped here. FAFSA doesn't require it, private colleges often do. It will depend upon the specific schools at that point.

 

"Is the non-custodial parent required to help pay for college?

The Federal government does not consider the income and assets of the non-custodial parent in determining a student's financial need. However, it does consider child support received by the custodial parent.

Many private colleges do consider the non-custodial parent as a potential source of support, and require a supplemental financial aid form from the non-custodial parent. This affects the awarding of the school's own aid, but not Federal and state aid."

http://www.finaid.org/questions/divorce.phtml

Yes, some require it, however, many do not. In fact, I have never worked at a college that did. One of those included a private, Christian LAC that was close to $40,000 a year. However, we gave significant scholarships and it ended up being cheaper than other schools including Public U in many cases. Definitely call the Financial Aid Office and explain your situation. We really do want to help I promise! :)
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Ds has good ACT scores, 1 year + college under belt- Dean's list. He's also white and we make great money. We also have had several disasters occur in life and don't have college funds for kids - of which we have 5. So, kids aren't eligible for need based assistance, and we don't have thousands to give them.

We know people making 1/3 of what we make and their kids go almost free. Ds can get opportunity scholarships but they are often 1/4- 1/3 tuition, leaving over $20K/ year.

For now he works and pays state school tuition while living at home. He works and studies and works and studies. It's not terrible but it's a bit uninspiring.

Just so frustrated for him- he is such a hard worker and feeling bad as he watches friend after friend leave for their cushy private school.

Check your privilege, would be a good response to your posts. I am not being snarky, I really do not think you are aware of what you actually have. It is wonderful that your son has these things. It is wonderful that he is able to live at home and not have to worry about an apartment (rent, utilities, renters insurance, etc) and use that money instead to pay for college. It seems he has had a fairly stable family life and upbringing, that is wonderful for his mental health. The mental health issues that are avoided allow him to use energy to focus on learning, instead of worrying about where his next meal will come from, if he will have enough to eat, or if he will be killed walking down the street. Being white is a privilege in America. Having a higher income, living in a safe neighborhood, having food to eat, being able to pursue extra curricular activities is a privilege that you were able to provide him. No one is faulting you for that and it is wonderful all that you have been able to provide him with the stability that he needs to be able to study and get ahead.

 

On behalf of the rest of those who have not as much, your words are condescending, judgmental and reek of privilege and ignorance of what those who lack your privilege are struggling with. The phrase "check your privilege" really applies here.

 

Never mind.

I feel that your reply was well worded and made a valid point that needs to be said on this thread and to the OP. I am sorry to see that you deleted it, but I understand why you did.
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Check your privilege, would be a good response to your posts. I am not being snarky, I really do not think you are aware of what you actually have. It is wonderful that your son has these things. It is wonderful that he is able to live at home and not have to worry about an apartment (rent, utilities, renters insurance, etc) and use that money instead to pay for college. It seems he has had a fairly stable family life and upbringing, that is wonderful for his mental health. The mental health issues that are avoided allow him to use energy to focus on learning, instead of worrying about where his next meal will come from, if he will have enough to eat, or if he will be killed walking down the street. Being white is a privilege in America. Having a higher income, living in a safe neighborhood, having food to eat, being able to pursue extra curricular activities is a privilege that you were able to provide him. No one is faulting you for that and it is wonderful all that you have been able to provide him with the stability that he needs to be able to study and get ahead. 

 

On behalf of the rest of those who have not as much, your words are condescending, judgmental and reek of privilege and ignorance of what those who lack your privilege are struggling with. The phrase "check your privilege" really applies here.

 

 

I feel that your reply was well worded and made a valid point that needs to be said on this thread and to the OP. I am sorry to see that you deleted it and I understand why you did. 

 

I think both views are oversimplified.  The process is far from perfect.  A simple example.....why is it that families with kids closer in age are expected to contribute less toward their children's educations than families with kids spread slightly farther apart?  

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A simple example.....why is it that families with kids closer in age are expected to contribute less toward their children's educations than families with kids spread slightly farther apart?  

 

Yep. After I discovered WTM I was happy my kids were 4 years apart. We could do the same 4-year history cycle, I wouldn't have two high schoolers at the same time, I'd get a break between college madness, etc. Then I started looking at financial aid and I realized it's going to affect us to not have two kids in college at the same time. Makes me want to give the oldest a couple of gap years....  :)

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Check your privilege, would be a good response to your posts. I am not being snarky, I really do not think you are aware of what you actually have. It is wonderful that your son has these things. It is wonderful that he is able to live at home and not have to worry about an apartment (rent, utilities, renters insurance, etc) and use that money instead to pay for college. It seems he has had a fairly stable family life and upbringing, that is wonderful for his mental health. The mental health issues that are avoided allow him to use energy to focus on learning, instead of worrying about where his next meal will come from, if he will have enough to eat, or if he will be killed walking down the street. Being white is a privilege in America. Having a higher income, living in a safe neighborhood, having food to eat, being able to pursue extra curricular activities is a privilege that you were able to provide him. No one is faulting you for that and it is wonderful all that you have been able to provide him with the stability that he needs to be able to study and get ahead.

 

On behalf of the rest of those who have not as much, your words are condescending, judgmental and reek of privilege and ignorance of what those who lack your privilege are struggling with. The phrase "check your privilege" really applies here.

 

I feel that your reply was well worded and made a valid point that needs to be said on this thread and to the OP. I am sorry to see that you deleted it, but I understand why you did.

 

It is the middle/lower-middle class paradox. You don't mind helping out, but it's frustrating to help out and to realize that the kids you are helping are getting more, as far as you can see, than your own kids. You'd like to help out so everyone can have the same, not so "they" can have what seems to be more. And I get that, I've been on every side of this equation. I don't think it's more--I think people lie like dogs about where their income is coming from--but if you believe what you hear you might get that impression.

 

I think a lot of us feel like the extra-curriculars are great, but they count for nothing towards a college acceptance. Grade inflation is rampant as is extra-curricular inflation, and it seems very hard to give a kid a way to earn a college scholarship. It all feels so random, so uncontrollable. What do I have to do to get ahead? What should I do to get my children the most important thing they need for a successful life?

 

There are no answers for that, and that's why people feel so unhappy and desperate about college costs. When everyone gets As, when tests are constantly changing, when preference is given to different disadvantaged groups in different ways at different schools but you aren't in any of those groups to get a break, when you feel like you've been working hard to get where you are and then you are treated like you got there easily (though to you it did not seem easy), yeah, that's frustrating.

 

Then to add insult to perceived injury, people like OP hear scammers claiming they are getting endless and generous benefits, that the schools they are going to are hyper selective. Seriously--many of those kids probably got loans. In the case of the endless Pell grants for single moms, single nonwhite mom here: they don't exist. So some people are lying about where that money is coming from. Maybe because they don't want anyone to know where it really comes from? I don't know. But if you know a couple of bad apples, or even people who literally do not realize they are taking out loans (this actually happens to people, believe it or not), then you may think, they have it easy. They didn't have to work but their kids get everything. It's not actually true. But you wouldn't know that from what some people claim on facebook.

 

I get that, and I think that's what OP is getting at. 

 

As many have pointed out, the system is not perfectly fair and if you work your way out of poverty, you are treated as if you were born middle class. It is FRUSTRATING. Maybe a family moved around a lot (like mine did). Maybe mom was working while kids were at home alone (like mine did). Maybe you had to work during school but nobody told you that that didn't count for scholarships (like I did). But then, after all that work, suddenly, you look middle class. And they say, "Well, you've been quite privileged. Check your privilege. Aren't you lucky that you can drive 90 minutes to get to school. I bet you feel lucky now!" No, I did not feel lucky.

 

There is an assumption in the FAFSA that you are in a social class, that nothing changed for you. And that assumption is dead wrong. They should collect income data for the past 10 years if possible. There is also the assumption in the FAFSA that it is the parents' responsibility to pay for college and not society's responsibility, and only if your parents are pretty much destitute will we help you out. That doesn't exist anywhere else in the rich world.

 

So I get the complaints, and I have been poor and I am not white. I know how hard kids in the ghetto have it, but I also know that there is a very small group of scammers who are very loud about how they get everything. They are jerks. But they do not represent the majority of the poor by any means. It is hard to wrap one's head around it when your head is full of trying to make things work for your own family.

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But it would never have happened if I had just stayed in my misery at how life was unfair.

 

 

I think it's one thing to vent on the Internet and entirely another not to do anything about it. I don't but my mom or partner about this most of the time. I vent here.

 

It doesn't mean I'm not going to do anything about my situation. I am sure OP is the same!

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Actually, I've heard that if you're divorced, the FAFSA at least only counts the custodial parent's income/assets. If you remarry, though, the stepparent's (new spouse of custodial parent) assets/income are considered.

 

Ugh, one more reason why it would make financial sense for DH and I to divorce on paper :-( We've actually discussed it but the risk is for a paper divorce to turn into a real breakup. Not worth the risk even if it would be the smart move from a purely financial standpoint.

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Check your privilege, would be a good response to your posts. I am not being snarky, I really do not think you are aware of what you actually have. It is wonderful that your son has these things. It is wonderful that he is able to live at home and not have to worry about an apartment (rent, utilities, renters insurance, etc) and use that money instead to pay for college. It seems he has had a fairly stable family life and upbringing, that is wonderful for his mental health. The mental health issues that are avoided allow him to use energy to focus on learning, instead of worrying about where his next meal will come from, if he will have enough to eat, or if he will be killed walking down the street. Being white is a privilege in America. Having a higher income, living in a safe neighborhood, having food to eat, being able to pursue extra curricular activities is a privilege that you were able to provide him. No one is faulting you for that and it is wonderful all that you have been able to provide him with the stability that he needs to be able to study and get ahead.

 

On behalf of the rest of those who have not as much, your words are condescending, judgmental and reek of privilege and ignorance of what those who lack your privilege are struggling with. The phrase "check your privilege" really applies here.

 

I feel that your reply was well worded and made a valid point that needs to be said on this thread and to the OP. I am sorry to see that you deleted it, but I understand why you did.

 

There is this assumption by many people with a lower income that people who make more money don't have to worry about paying the bills (and I'm not talking about discretionary spending but basics like housing, medical, etc.) Well, that's not true in many cases. A lot of people making "good" money live in geographic areas where the cost of basics is insanely high. That is what is so unfair about nationalized formulas for financial aid. A family making $100k in a high COL area may actually have less disposable income than a family making $50k in a low COL area.

 

And to top off the unfairness, the state-by-state variability in the National Merit cutoffs means that the student living in the low COL area may have a significantly easier time getting merit aid even though their financial need for it is less.

 

I am hoping to go to grad school in a fairly specialized field (auditory-verbal therapy for the deaf & hard-of-hearing). There aren't that many universities that offer this program and they are spread out all over the country. Since my oldest will be starting high school the same year that I hope to start grad school, I started checking the National Merit cutoffs and added that as a field to my grad school database. It is shocking how wide the variation is. If I go to grad school in AR, MO, MS, SC or UT (all of them in relatively low COL areas) she'd only need to score a 206-209. If I go to a school in NY or TX she'd need a 218. If we stay here in CA, she'd need a 222. If I am lucky enought to have the choice of several grad schools, I'm not going to choose solely based on the NMF cutoff, but it'll definitely play a role in figuring out which makes the most financial sense to take.

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There is this assumption by many people with a lower income that people who make more money don't have to worry about paying the bills (and I'm not talking about discretionary spending but basics like housing, medical, etc.) Well, that's not true in many cases. A lot of people making "good" money live in geographic areas where the cost of basics is insanely high. That is what is so unfair about nationalized formulas for financial aid. A family making $100k in a high COL area may actually have less disposable income than a family making $50k in a low COL area.

 

And to top off the unfairness, the state-by-state variability in the National Merit cutoffs means that the student living in the low COL area may have a significantly easier time getting merit aid even though their financial need for it is less.

 

I am hoping to go to grad school in a fairly specialized field (auditory-verbal therapy for the deaf & hard-of-hearing). There aren't that many universities that offer this program and they are spread out all over the country. Since my oldest will be starting high school the same year that I hope to start grad school, I started checking the National Merit cutoffs and added that as a field to my grad school database. It is shocking how wide the variation is. If I go to grad school in AR, MO, MS, SC or UT (all of them in relatively low COL areas) she'd only need to score a 206-209. If I go to a school in NY or TX she'd need a 218. If we stay here in CA, she'd need a 222. If I am lucky enought to have the choice of several grad schools, I'm not going to choose solely based on the NMF cutoff, but it'll definitely play a role in figuring out which makes the most financial sense to take.

Some of us have no idea what 50K a year even looks like. Struggling on 100K IS laughable to those of use struggling on a fraction of that. If someone is struggling with 100K (in a HCOL area), imagine how hard it is for the families trying to make ends meet on 50K or even 25K or 30K in that same HCOL area. There are people trying to do just that. Those who are doing this get fed up hearing about those make 2-4 times the amount complain about how hard they have it as they are in their solid homes, driving a car that they do not have to baby along to get to the store and then hope will start to get them home again and just needs to make it until the end of the month and then, maybe, they can get it fixed. Right, wrong, or otherwise, it is reality for many to live on so little in a HCOL area. I promise, it really is MUCH harder to live on 25K in a HCOL area than it is to live on 100K. If you are living on 100K,sit with your budget and try to figure out how to survive on 1/4 of that. There are people trying to do just that.

 

I am not being snarky. I really think there is a disconnect here. Possibly a class difference. What some people view as a bare bones existence and scrapping by is living in luxury for others. 

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