Coming Soon: A New Way to Apply for Financial Aid

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Coming Soon! A New Way to Apply for Financial Aid


Every year more than one million students do not complete the form to apply for federal financial aid (FSFSA). Research proves that many of the students who do not complete the form would be eligible to qualify for financial aid and enroll in college.
Why? The form is ten pages long and includes 108 questions. Some families simply cannot or will not take the time to answer all the questions.
In July two senators, introduced a bill that would replace the FAFSA with a simpler two-question form. The Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act would allow families to use income data from two years prior to the date of the FAFSA. This would allow students to apply earlier for financial aid and better plan as to how they will meet college costs. The act also establishes a link between the online FAFSA form and income tax data stored by the IRS. This will allow income information to be automatically input into the FAFSA form and reduce the amount of time it now takes for families to complete a FAFSA.
Others have suggested sending potential college students text messages about applying for financial aid. Some recent experiments have proved successful when students received messages on their phones either to apply for financial aid or to renew their application for aid.
I think it is safe to predict that when the Higher Education Reauthorization Bill is passed, significant changes will be made to the current system. This is a good thing.
BUT there is a better way to calculate whether or not you and your family can afford a particular college or university and in The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, I recommend getting an estimate of your financial aid package before ever completing an application for admission.

Important College Statistics


Education is a gift that none can take away


Important College Statistics     Part 2

Student Loans

From 2004 to 2014 there was a 70% increase in student loan borrowing
In 2004 student loan debt was $364 billion. In 2013 it was $1.2 trillion
1% of all student borrowers owe more than $100,000 (more than 1 million graduates)
40% owe less than $40,000
The 2014 average student loan bill was $33,000. In 2010, the average debt was $25,250
2012 only 40% of all student borrowers were paying down their loans
17% of all loans are delinquent
The 4 main student loan programs are expected to generate $13.5 billion in profit for the federal government from 2015 to 2024

Employment/Unemployment Statistics

According to a report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 5.8 million young people neither in school or working
The unemployment rate for Americans with less than a high school degree is 19.7%. High school graduates have a 15% unemployment rate and college graduates have a 5.2% unemployment rate
According to a report in the New York Times, 1/5 of Americans ages 20 to 35 live with their parents and 60% receive money from their parents to live
According to a report issued by Complete College America, U.S. companies plan to hire 9% more college graduates in 2014 than in 2013. So far this year there has been an 11.5% increase in job offers to graduates in education and 9.5% increase in offers made to communications majors BUT 54% of new college graduates cannot find full-time work that requires their college degree
Americans change careers, on average, 7 x in the course of their working lives

Important College Facts

Facts Einstein


Important College Facts




In 2013 17.7% of high school students applied to more than 8 schools. The average percentage of students accepted off wait lists was 25%.

Community Colleges

26% of Americans have at least an associate’s degree
45% of all college students first enroll in a community college
The average associate’s degree costs between $$0,000 and $60,000. The average bachelor’s degree costs $10,000

Financial Aid

Last year the federal government spent $180 billion in federal student aid programs. This is an increase of 132% since 2002-03.
37% of all federal aid awarded last year was loans
$85 billion was awarded to undergraduate students
71% of all undergraduates received some financial aid in the 2011-12 academic year
The average aid amount increased from $9,000 to $10,800


According to the College Board, the majority of college students change majors at least once
College students need 30 credits a year (including summer school) to graduate in four years BUT only 31% of students take 15 or more credits a semester
600,000 students attended colleges last year where the dropout rate exceeded 85%.
68% of students in public colleges and universities fail to graduate in four years and 44% fail to graduate in 6 years
Nationally, 4-year colleges and universities graduated an average of 53% of entering students in 6 years and 40% in 4 years

Who Pays for College?

According to Sallie Mae, only 16% of parents with children under the age of 18 have a plan to pay for college
25% of parents are actively saving for college BUT according to a report by Fidelity Investments, more than 54% of grandparents are saving or plan to save for their grandchildren’s education. The average contribution is $25,000. 90% reported that they would contribute more if asked.

For further information, read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job

Cars and College

cars-on-campusDoes Going to College and Buying a Car Have Anything in Common?
Comparing a college education to purchasing a car is certain to offend many: parents, prospective college students, and faculty and college administrators. But before you press the delete button consider the following scenario.
You begin looking for a car by reading reviews, maybe Consumer Reports, (college guide books) and after investigating and comparing, you narrow your choices.
You make an appointment to meet with a few car salesmen (college admission counselors) and arrange to visit a few showrooms (college visits).
After comparing features and costs, you meet with a bank loan manager (financial aid counselor) to determine how you will pay for the car and the average monthly payments.
Before making a final decision, you read reviews from previous buyers (alumni surveys).
After comparing benefits and costs you make a final decision on which car to purchase (May 1st admission deadline date).
After driving the car for three months you notice problems with the ignition (first semester economics course).
You contact the salesman who sold you the car. He recommends that you speak with their technology mechanic (director of retention services/academic advisor).
The problem is solved and you have a better understanding of how the car operates. You spend the next four years driving the car without a problem (college graduation).
Still with me? Even I confess that this is a crude and superficial comparison because enrolling in college is not the same as buying and driving a car. But certain similarities can withstand comparison and scrutiny.
Purchasing a car and financing a college education are both major purchases.
Ask yourself:
Would you purchase a car before comparing several options?
Would you purchase a car before knowing how you would finance the car payments?
Would you continue to drive a car if there were problems with the ignition or steering?
Many families have outsourced the selection of their child’s college education either to overworked high school guidance counselors or private, expensive college counselors.
Many families have outsourced the financing of their child’s college education to the federal government or to colleges and universities with promises of generous merit or need-based scholarships.
Many families wait until after college acceptances arrive in the mail before considering how they will pay for tuition and fees.
Many families assume that college is a six, not four year, experience.
Many families do not believe that career counseling is an important factor in college selection.
I would suggest that before a single college application is filed, you ask and compare answers to the following questions:
Where do I want to go to school? Is the school’s location agreeable to my parents?
Do I know what I want to study?
Who will teach me in the first year?
What is the average class size for first year students?
How many first year students return for the second year?
How long will it take me to graduate?
How safe are the schools on my list?
Can I afford this school?
What kind of financial aid is available?
May I get an estimate of my financial aid package before filing an application?
Will I receive the same amount of financial aid each year if my family’s income does not change?
What are the average student debt and the average parent debt?
When does career counseling begin?
What about recent graduates’ employment rates at graduation?
This Is What I Believe
There is a college or university for every student who wants to enroll.
There is a college or university that you can afford to attend.
You can graduate in four year, not five or six.
You can graduate with manageable debt.
You can position yourself in college to get a job after graduation.

Marguerite J. Dennis was a university dean of admission and financial aid at St. John’s University in New York, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and Suffolk University in Boston. She is the author of: The New College Guide: How to Get In, get Out, and Get a Job.

Applying for college. Applying for a job?

We have acknowledged applying for college can be a stressful pursuit, sometimes.

And the potential for stress can often be heightened if prospective students pile on worry and concern for landing a job after college graduation.

But just as we pointed out in our post last week stress doesn’t have to creep into the college application process if students go about the process methodically.

Boston Globe writers Clayton Christensen and Michelle Weise report in the May 11th issue 50% of recent college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed.

Dr. Christensen reports in the same piece that 96% of  chief academic officers at universities believe they are doing a good job of preparing students for jobs.

But only 11% of employers believe colleges and universities are graduating students with the skills necessary to succeed in today’s competitive work environment.

I know what you are thinking if you are a prospective college student: “I am not even in college so why should I think about getting a job after I graduate?”

What you may be missing is getting into college and getting a job upon graduation are very much related to each other.

It is reasonable to assume one of the reasons you want to go to college is to help you get a job after graduation; a job that will allow you to live reasonably well. But if you wait until your senior year in college or don’t investigate the career counseling services of the colleges still on your list, you are decreasing your chances of getting a good job after you leave college.

The New College GuideLike last week, I am suggesting that you pick up your copy of my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, and review the questions related to career counseling services and jobs after graduation.

Let’s do this together.

Review the following questions:

  • Question 37 –  Who Can help Me Find a Job?
  • Question 38 –  What About Employment after Graduation?

Be sure you have a clear understanding from each of the schools still on your college application list of when the school begins advising students about career options and what each school does to help graduates secure jobs.  And you want to know the kind of jobs the graduates secured.

This is your life and your future. Take charge of it.  Ask the right questions.  Now let’s go for an ice cream.

Applying for College: Stressed Out or Calm?

We should be honest: applying for college can become a stressful preoccupation.

Just relax, take a few deep breaths.

For those of you entering your senior year in high school – and your parents – you may be feeling the pressure of having to make a decision, filling out the applications. You perception is that time is running out.

You have an appointment with your high school guidance counselor the second week in September and you are tired of all the “road trips” and facts and figures.  Conversations at dinnertime focuses on costs and how your family can/will pay for college.

There was a wonderful article written by Doug Belkin, an educational writer for The Wall Street Journal on May 7th.  The article, Elite Colleges Don’t Buy Happiness, reported on a poll conducted by Gallup of 30,000 college graduates in 50 schools. The bottom line: it doesn’t matter so much where you study but what is important is what you study.

Earlier research by Stacy Dale, an economist at Mathematica, revealed that students accepted into elite schools but enrolling in less selective schools earned as much money as their elite counterparts.

So take a deep breath a re-read that sentence.  Do you really want the pressure of applying only to schools that admit less that 5% of all those that apply?  Is that you?  Maybe it is.  But maybe it isn’t.  Only you can decide.

The New College GuidePick up a copy (again) of my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, and review the following questions:

  • Question 1  –   School Location and Size
  • Question 2 –    Type of School
  • Question 3 –    Do I Know What I Want to Study?
  • Question 7 –    Who Will Teach Me?
  • Question 10 – How Many Freshmen Become Sophomores?
  • Question 11 – How Long Will It Take Me to Graduate?

Then take a break. That’s enough for today.

Today review the following questions:

  • Question 18  – How Safe Are the Schools on My List?
  • Question 22 –  Will I Fit In?
  • Question 25 –  Can I Afford This School?
  • Question 27 –  What Kind of Financial Aid Is Available?
  • Question 31 –  Does Everyone Get Financial Aid?
  • Question 34 –  How Do I Know If I Am Borrowing Too Much?

That’s enough for day 2.

By the time you review and write down the answers to these questions for all of the schools you are considering, some clear “winners” will emerge.


  • You can be admitted to a school of your choice and your choice may not be a “designer” school or one even rated in a college guide book.
  • You want to know before you apply, that you can afford this school.
  • You have a plan to manage your debt.

Next week I will write about employment and jobs after graduation.



College statistics you should know

Numbers often give us the big picture of challenges facing us and college statistics give us a picture of the state of higher education today.

I don’t know if you read The New York Times, but if you do not, you will want to read the following statistics listed by David Brooks on May 5, 2014:

  • 1974 – 77% of all college students enrolled in their first choice school
  • 2013 –  57% of all college students enrolled in their first choice school
  • 1976 –  50% of all college students went to college to earn more money
  • 2006 –  69% of all college students went to college to earn more money
  • 1966 –  42% of college students reported being well off financially was important
  • 2005 –  75% of college students reported being well off financially was important
  • 1966 –  86% of college students reported going to college to develop a philosophy of life. In 2013, the percentage was less than 50%.
  • 1985 – 18% of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do
  • 2013 – 33% of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you know why you want to go to college?
  • Is a good job after graduation, doing meaningful work and earning a decent salary, important to you?

The New College Guide

If you read and follow the principles in The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, you will enroll in your first choice school.

You cannot fail!

Who Will Teach Me at College?

College GuideIt doesn’t not occur to most college-bound students to ask the simple questions, “who will teach me at college?”

Nearly everyone assumes – certainly a reasonable assumption – the teachers at college will be fully tenured, college professors. Or, at least, graduate students on their way to becoming college professors.

But we can no longer make that assumption.

If you have read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get  a Job, you will know that one of the questions you should ask before you apply to any college or university is who teaches first year students.  Are the instructors full-time, tenured faculty, or are they adjunct teachers or graduate assistants?

According to a recent report, the majority of professors are now adjuncts, teaching part-time in several schools.  They are often given little advance notice of what course they will be teaching. They may not even have an office or office hours, making it difficult for a first year student to get advice outside of the classroom.

There are many excellent adjunct professors and graduate teaching assistants. But I do not believe that they are the best instructors for first-year students.

Schools that use adjuncts do so to save money. The interests of the students, in my opinion, are secondary to the monetary benefit of using part-time instructors.  Adjunct faculty cannot provide the same kind of educational experience and academic advising provided by a full-time professor.

I believe the classroom professor is the most important factor in student success, especially in the first year.

The best schools in the country put their best teachers in first-year classrooms.  Be certain you know who teaches first-year courses before turning in your application.

Questions About College Admissions, Part 2

We began our post last week discussing some questions we wished we’d asked about college admissions.

I mentioned our friends, Sydney and Tom Hale. They just finished reading my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job.

The Hales expressed their disappointment they never thought to ask some of the questions listed in my book when they applied to college and when their children were applying to colleges.

Based on what I heard from them,  I will answer a few of those questions. Other questions and answers appear, as I mentioned, in the post published June 26.

Pre-registration and Registration Processes

  • Sydney was almost a senior in college before she finally felt comfortable navigating the pre-registration and registration processes.  As a result, she often did not get the classes she needed and wanted.

Takeaway:  After you read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, you will know, before enrolling, what you need to do to successfully register for all of your college courses.

Applying to College

  • Tom was an excellent student but did not really think about applying to college until late in his junior year.  He wished he had spent more time in high school preparing for college.

Takeaway:  Read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Joband you will learn exactly what you need to do to get into the best school for you and your family and when you need to begin the process.

Involvement in College Life

  • Sydney urges readers of my book to never follow one’s boyfriend/girlfriend or best friend to a particular school.  She also urges college students to get involved as early as possible in the life of the school and to think twice about living off-campus as that can be a very isolating experience.

Takeaway:  I think Sydney’s advice is valuable.  The experiences you have outside the classroom will affect your entire college life.

Publishing in Education