Posts Tagged ‘college admission’

New Veteran’s Benefits Summary, College Announces Tuition Freeze

December 12, 2008

Our guest blog article today is provided courtesy of Allied American University (AAU), a military friendly college that offers online associate and bachelor’s degree programs.
New GI Bill Benefits Will Send More Veterans to College
This past summer Congress voted to increase GI Bill benefits for American veterans, and US colleges are expecting to enroll more and more veterans, many of them fresh from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The increased benefits will allow many veterans to focus solely on school when they get out, instead of trying to balance full-time work while they tackle a degree. Right now there are currently 320,000 students taking advantage of GI Bill benefits, which is based on the federal program created at the end of World War II to help returning veterans pay for college.

Modifications to the GI Bill now allow veterans to attend private schools, in addition to providing them with a monthly housing stipend, as well as money to help pay for textbooks. 

“We’ll see a huge increase in vets going to school,” Rodrigo Garcia, Midwest regional director of Student Veterans of America told the South town Star. “Before they were hesitant to go to school because many of the vets have families and wanted to take care of them. It was too pressing to take classes, work full time and provide for the kids.”

The new GI Bill benefits will go into effect in Aug. 2009 and many experts predict that as many as 500,000 vets will enroll in college using the benefits. Many universities these days are proactive in making sure veterans enrolled at their respective schools know about the new benefits. 

The transition from the military to the university is often a difficult one for veterans.   There is certainly a world of difference between a typical 19-year-old freshmen and a veteran who may be in his late 20s, with multiple combat tours under his belt.

There are also veterans who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or have physical disabilities as a result of war-time injuries. Veterans with disabilities qualify for special assistance through the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program of the VA, which may pay 100% of a veteran’s expenses until graduation.

Many veterans began their education before they separated from the service, by using Tuition Assistance to pay for classes at both community colleges and four-year universities. Some service members took classes online, which allowed them to study while deployed.

In the state of Illinois, for example, there are now 15,500 veterans enrolled in college. When the new GI Bill goes into effect next August, veterans who served on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001 will be eligible for benefits (some restrictions apply).

The government will pay the full-cost of tuition and fees for veterans who served three years on active duty or were injured. The housing allowance, for example, for a veteran in the Chicago, Ill.-area will be approximately $1,600 per month.  Veterans will also receive up to $1,000 annually for books and other school supplies, plus $100 a month for tutoring.

There are now a number of online universities that specialize in enrolling veterans and service members. Many of them offer textbook and military spouse scholarships, along with self-paced schedules and other military-friendly policies.
Good News from Merrimack College

Merrimack College (North Andover, MA) announced today that it will not raise tuition, room, or board next year.

The Economy is in the Toilet; Is my College Education?

October 20, 2008

The Economy is in the Toilet; Is my College Education?

Financing College Costs in a Tough Economy

Virtually every family in America, regardless of its economic standing, is concerned about the current state of the U.S. economy.  In fact, the economy has displaced the war in Iraq as the single biggest issue in the current Presidential campaign.

Families with teenagers and children in their early 20’s are especially concerned about one economic issue; how to meet college costs.

Even families who began saving for college when their children were infants may come up short, particularly if their college savings are in stocks or real estate.  There seem to be two principal categories of families, those who had no college savings plan and those whose savings are worth at least 25% less than they were two months ago.

College and university endowments, because they are heavily invested in the stock market, are also down considerably.  That’s important because, for all but the very wealthiest colleges, a decline in endowment value may reduce the financial resources available for college-funded (institutional) scholarships.

These scholarships are a very important part of financial aid packages, especially at private colleges and universities, which tend to be more expensive than state colleges and universities .  In fact, currently, private colleges offer students enough institutional-based scholarships to offset approximately 35% of tuition costs.  As previously stated, the elite colleges have so much money that their ability to offer institutional aid will not be impacted seriously even if the economic downturn continues.

Other institutions will have no choice but to maintain or even increase their scholarship expenditures, even if it means deep cuts in other areas, in order to meet their enrollment goals.  Still others, however, may not be able to afford the level of institutional scholarships awarded in recent years.

It seems reasonable to guess that, until the national economy recovers, there will be changes in the way colleges recruit and select students, and in the ways in which students and families make their college choices.  Thus far, the economic downturn has brought a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty to families and colleges.

So, what should you do in the midst of so much economic uncertainty?  Here’s where you might start.

1. Do not panic.  Your ability to attend college may not be at all affected by our national economic woes. And, if you are affected, it will be a case of which college you attend, not if you can afford to go to college.

2. Meet with your high school counselor and admissions and financial aid counselors at the colleges you are considering to be sure you are aware of all of your financial aid options.  Remember, few students have to pay full tuition and fees.

3. See if your high school counseling office has a list of scholarships offered by organizations in or near your community. Remember, competition for these scholarships may be limited, which is good news for you.

4. Use Google or Yahoo to search for “college scholarships”.  You’ll find more than 60 free scholarship search sites.  Each will “match” you to appropriate scholarships.

5. Avoid at all costs any company which claims it can help you qualify for more scholarships or financial aid than you would otherwise receive.  Most such organizations, maybe all, are more interested in taking your money than in getting you money.

6. Look for educational bargains…lower priced colleges of high quality.  There more than you think, especially in the South.

7. Consider educational loans.  Remember that education is the best investment you can make in your future.  But, resist the temptation to borrow more than is absolutely necessary.

Remember the story of Chicken Little.  Although no responsible economist is minimizing the depth our current economic problems, there is no reason to believe that they will impact students’ ability to pursue higher education.  However, students and their families will be well served by careful college financial planning, increased emphasis on researching their options, and more frequent contact with high school and college counselors who have the expertise to guide them.

Integrating Financial Aid into the College Search

September 12, 2008

Integrating Financial Aid into the College Search

Our guest blogger today is Dr. Dean Skarlis, an independent college admissions counselor and college advisor.  As such, Dr. Skarlis assists students in identifying and assisting students in gaining admission to appropriate colleges and universities.

$53,000 per year.  That’s the current cost of attendance at George Washington University and the University of Chicago.  This includes tuition, room and board, fees, books and “personal expenses,” whatever that means.  It’s fair to say that the cost of higher education has grown at a ridiculously fast pace over the past 20 years.  In fact, college costs have increased at twice the rate of inflation during that time period.  And the pace of that growth will not slow down; it will only accelerate in years to come. 

This begs the question:  Why are colleges so expensive?  There are numerous reasons, not the least of which is a highly inefficient bureaucracy.  But another underlying explanation lies with students and parents, themselves.  You might say, how can you blame students and parents for the high cost of college?  I maintain that there are two valid reasons to indicate that college-going families must shoulder some of the responsibility. 

First, students and parents have become consumers, and rightly so.  With college costs increasing so dramatically, a vicious cycle has been promulgated.  It goes something like this:  Sticker prices increase along with our standard of living.  As a result, families have come to expect more amenities for the big price tag.  So colleges, not wanting to disappoint, have created pristinely gorgeous campuses, elaborate classroom facilities, trendy apartment style residence halls, coffee bars, and fitness centers.  The schools have thus engaged in an arms race of sorts by building and maintaining these high end facilities because students expect it..  This obviously adds to a college’s fixed costs, which are passed along to the end consumer. 

The second reason is a bit more indirect, but equally as important.  The dirty little secret of higher education is that almost half of all college students do not graduate in 5 years.  That means that about half of all undergraduates either fail to complete their degree at the college at which they began, or never get their degree at all.  It’s easy to blame the colleges for this statistic, and most of them deserve responsibility, but the primary cause is that families have not made the right choice during the college selection process.  This is because most families do not fully engage in the college search process.  In my practice, I sometimes meet families who have not researched or visited any colleges until the middle of the senior year.  This is far too late.  What parents do not fully realize is that a college education is an investment.  With the cost of a 4-year private degree eclipsing $200,000, it is imperative that families make systematic, well informed decisions with the ultimate goal of finding a college that’s the right fit, socially, academically, and financially.  If students and parents do not search for schools that will suit them in all three of these categories, then they are much more likely to drop out, potentially wasting thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Aside from dropping out, one of the worst case scenarios is that a child picks a school to which his parents cannot afford to send him.  I see this far too often, and it can be devastating for both student and parent.  That’s why parents should be involved in the entire college search process.  They should assess their affordability early in the process – 10th grade is not too early.  They should ask:  Will we qualify for need based aid?  What about scholarships?  And because different schools use different financial aid formulas, parents should understand how each college assesses their ability to pay.  There are strategies that many educational consultants can employ that will help reduce a family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC).  This may help them qualify for need based aid.  At the very least, parents should work with a college financial advisor to understand how much they can afford, and where the money will come from so they find a college that’s the right fit financially, as well as socially and academically.