Last night we participated in a live Twitter chat lead by Jodi Okun of College Financial Aid Advisors and her guest, the folks at Central Scholarship, a non-profit that awards scholarships and interest-free loans to students pursuing higher education. It was a lively group and we learned -- or were reminded of -- a few things worth repeating.
A new study from Sallie Mae, How America Pays for College 2013, evaluates how families view and manage the cost of a college education today. Among the findings:
- Increasing optimism about the value of college. A higher percentage of parents than in previous years — 85% — express an unwavering belief that college is an investment in their child's future.
- A post-recession cost consciousness. Parent out-of-pocket spending has decreased 35% since 2010. Overall, parents now fund approximately one-quarter of college expenses, down from a peak of one-third.
- A growing reliance on grants and scholarships. “Free” money is filling part of the gap left by lower parental contributions.
- Larger student contributions. Students are funding more of the college bill through borrowing and savings/income than they did five years ago.
And for more analysis of the survey, see "Holding the Line" in today's Inside Higher Ed.
As you head off into the summer, here's one last checklist. If you get some of these things done, you will be off to a good start when you return in the fall. And as a little added incentive, we've included links to prior posts with advice on each subject. Have a great vacation and make sure that in addition to researching colleges and writing your essays this summer, you rest, relax and recharge, as well.
Your decision is made and you know where you're headed next fall. But there are still a few things you need to be aware of over the summer in order to insure the transition to campus goes smoothly. Here's one last checklist for you:
• Follow up on any remaining financial aid details.
• Look for summer mailings from your college about housing, orientation, course selection, and other subjects. If you will be away for a significant part of the summer, be sure the college knows where to send your mail, or arrange for your mail to be forwarded. A response from you may be required.
• Make your first payment on time.
• Complete the summer reading assigned by the college.
• Pack for college. Have a wonderful freshman year!
So that's it -- we're out of advice for you. But we will point you in the direction of our excellent move-in advice for college freshmen, which you will find here. Check it out. It will save you -- and your parents -- from back problems, heat exhaustion and repeat trips to the electronics store for cable cords.
When it comes to financial aid, it’s never too early to start learning about what is a very complex and important topic. All colleges are required by law to have a financial aid calculator (sometimes referred to as a net price calculator) available on their website. Financial aid calculators can provide an early understanding of what you will be asked to pay at individual colleges and what your aid award might look like.
So as you research colleges now and through the summer, check out the financial aid calculator for each school on your list as you’re surfing the colleges’ websites. Use the calculator to help you figure out what the colleges offer, as well as to start thinking about what you will need to do to make your choices work financially. If possible, try out the calculators with your parents.
Your results— the cost to you and the aid you may receive— may differ fairly significantly from calculator to calculator and from college to college. Just to see how things compare, try out the calculators at a few less expensive colleges and some more expensive ones. It can often be at least as affordable to attend a more expensive college that offers a strong financial aid program. Find out now, so you can select the colleges that work best for you while factoring in price, without ruling out options that might initially seem unaffordable.
It's decision time! Your financial aid award letters will usually arrive with your letters of acceptance, or soon thereafter. Even though you will be celebrating and contemplating your choices, you will also need to be focused and diligent about evaluating your financial aid offers. College advisor Alice Kleeman is back with advice for students and families and answers for your questions during this important time.
- You will often receive financial aid offers (also called "financial aid packages" or "financial aid award letters") with your admit letter or shortly thereafter. Review these offers carefully. Ask questions at your College and Career Center or Guidance Office if you don't understand your letters.
- Different colleges cost different amounts, present their costs in different ways, and offer different amounts of financial aid in different combinations. This can make it difficult to understand which combination of price and student aid award is best. Here are some tools for comparing financial aid awards:
Diane Stemper, Executive Director of Financial Aid at The Ohio State University, returns today with the second of a two-part post on comparing financial aid awards so that students and their families can be wise consumers and better understand what they are being offered and signing on for. Yesterday Stemper laid out the vocabulary and content of financial aid award letters along with a step-by-step plan for comparing aid awards. You can see Part One of Stemper's post here. Today, she has more advice for students and families on understanding aid awards as smart consumers, as well as guidance for interacting with financial aid offices and a resource list for tools that can help families in the comparison process.
· Colleges may state they meet “full need” – sounds great, but how much of that is loans?
· Are parent loans listed as part of the financial aid award? If so, it may look like you have sufficient financial aid to meet your costs, but part of this could be debt that your parents are incurring on top of your own student loan debt.
Different colleges cost different amounts, present their costs in different ways, and offer different amounts of fiancial aid in different combinations. This can make it difficult to understand which combination of price and student aid award is best.Diane Stemper, Executive Director of Financial Aid at The Ohio State University, joins us today for the first of a two-part post on comparing financial aid awards so that students and their families can be wise consumers and better understand what they are being offered and signing on for.
During 30 years as a financial aid director, I have worked at several different colleges and universities, creating and revising award letters at each and every school. Financial aid offices across the country engage in the same activity, striving to provide a clear message in the financial aid award letter and often approaching it in a slightly different manner. The result is that letters from different institutions often do not look the same. How do you understand this land of acronyms and abbreviations? And more importantly, how do you understand what the cost will be to you and how do you compare this for various institutions as you make your very important college choice decision?
There are a few basic definitions that will assist you in sorting out the information:
Last week, one of Kelly Dunham's students informed her that he had received notification he was waitlisted at one of the colleges to which he'd applied. He was asked to follow a link to let the university know if he was interested in staying on the waitlist. He selected the link and it took him to a pornography website. "Thank goodness, he is a student with a great sense of humor," says Dunham. "I contacted the university and the link was of course wrong! What are the chances?"
It's all in a day's work for Dunham -- though her days usually revolve around more prosaic problems like academic advising and college lists. As Counseling Department Coordinator for Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colorado, in the Denver metropolitan area, Dunham is head of the department and also acts as one of ten counselors, who spend most of their time advising students on academics, social/emotional issues, and college. The largest high school west of the Mississippi River, Cherry Creek is home to 3500 students, 95% of whom go on to college.