Tag Archives: students

College Financial Aid Facts You Want to Know

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 71% of  undergraduate students received some form of financial aid in 2011-12.  

That is a 5% increase since 2007-08.

The average amount of aid increased from $9,000 to $10,800.

According to a report from Sallie Mae, How America Pays for College, in 2013, college expenses were covered in the following way:

  • Students borrowed 18%
  • Parents borrowed 9%
  • Parents’ savings 27%
  • Grants and scholarships 30%
  • Relatives and friends 5%
  • Student income and savings 11%.

Since the recession of 2009:

  • Parents have contributed less to meet college expenses.
  • Students borrowed more to meet college expenses.
  • Use of college savings plans increased.
  • Affordability has jumped to become the #1 factor in college selection.
  • Many colleges and universities have slowed the rate of annual tuition increases.
  • Some schools are charging different tuition rates for different majors.

The New College Guide by Marguerite-J-Dennis FeaturedThe New College Guide How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job recommends:

  • Finding out before you apply if you can afford the schools your list.
  • Meet with a financial aid counselor before you submit an application.
  • Ask the hard questions.
  • Debt is manageable or unmanageable only in relationship to starting salaries. Try to keep your loan payments to 15% of your first year starting salary.

The Gap Year: an option prior to college

It’s become known as, “Gap Year,” and it’s a rapidly growing trend among graduating high school seniors in the U.S. prior to entering college.

For an increasing number of graduating high school seniors, a Gap Year may be a viable option.

What should you do if, after graduating from high school, you feel you are not quite ready to enroll in college?  Maybe you have no idea what you want to study or maybe you want to serve in a local or national service community project?

Maybe you have been accepted to your first-choice school but you want to defer for a year?  Is there an option?  There is and it is called taking a Gap Year.

Gap YearTaking a year off before beginning university studies is fairly typical in many parts of the world and is generally followed by students in the United Kingdom.

When I was working in Downtown Boston I often observed, in the early morning, students in red jackets doing calisthenics. They were members of City Yeara Boston-based organization that allowed students to work for one year in community-based projects. The students earned money and gained valuable work experience.

AmeriCorps allows high school graduates to do the same while helping the country to meet its health, environmental and educational needs.

Graduates of AmeriCorps and City Year, receive financial aid that can be applied to meet their future college costs.

There are hundreds of Gap Year programs for you to investigate either at the local or national level.

What should you do if you think you may want to take a year “off” before beginning your college studies?

  • Have a clear idea of why you want to do this and some idea of how you would like to spend the year between high school and college.
  • Discuss with your parents.  Everyone needs to sign off on this.
  • Find out if the school(s) who accepted you will defer admission for a year.  Get the answer in writing.
  • Please know there is nothing wrong or peculiar about taking a Gap Year.  But you need to know why and have a plan.

Useful tools for selecting colleges and universities

Some students have little difficulty selecting the next step in education: colleges and universities.

Legacies, specific fields of desired study, perhaps even acquired preferences often play large roles in narrowing the choices for higher education.

But for many other students – and parents – the selection is not always so easy.  That is normal and natural, too.

International StudentsIf you’re at the beginning, middle or even at the end of your college search, the following tools may be of assistance:

  • Read my book,The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job.  This book will help you to ask the right questions before you even file one application.
  • The College Navigator provides lots of useful information on colleges and universities.
  • The College Scorecard gives families comparative information on colleges and universities.
  • The Shopping Sheet gives families a standardized financial aid form.
  • Net Price Calculators must be posted on all colleges and universities awarded federal financial aid funds. This gives the college applicant information on what the family is likely to pay if enrolled.
  • Salary Surfer is a California community college website that details how much money students earned before and after completing an associate’s degree or certificate program in the California system.

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has produced a report on the investigations involving for-profit colleges.  Under investigation are: Corinthian, DeVry, ITT and Education Management Corporation.  Be very careful before applying to for-profit schools. There are many other choices available.

Sometime this year the U.S. Department of Education will produce a ratings system of all U.S. colleges and universities. The system will measure outcomes, like graduation rates and employment at graduation.

Stay tuned.

College graduates earn more; the cost of not going to college

Most families worry about the cost of college, student and parent debt and getting a good job after graduation.  

But have you ever considered the costs of not going to college? The Pew Research Center, published a report in October, 2013, comparing 2,000 Millennials, (adults aged 25 to 32), with college degrees and those with high school diplomas. This is what the research found:

  • College graduates will earn about $17,500 more a year than adults with just a high school diploma.
  • Millennials with a high school diploma can expect to earn 62% of what a typical college graduate earns.
  • College graduates are less likely to be unemployed – 3.8% vs.12.2%.
  • 90% of college graduates say their college degree has already paid off.
  • 22% of high school graduates are living in poverty, compared with 6% of college graduates.

MillennialsCollege graduates were asked what they would have done differently in college. Here is what they shared with the researchers:

  • Would have gained more employment experience while in school.
  • Would have started looking for a job sooner than or picked a different major.
  • Would have studied harder.

Whenever you feel discouraged or feel that college is not worth the investment of time and money, review these statistics.

Get Employment Statistics!

Few colleges and universities readily distribute the employment statistics of recent graduates for a simple reason: they do not have this information.  

That will not do for anyone reading this blog.

In the March 17th issue of the Wall Street Journal,   Melissa Korn, a writer for the paper, raises the issue of employment at graduation and reinforces my belief that colleges and universities should do more to help students find suitable employment at graduation.

college graduationMs. Korn writes about College Measures, a partnership between the American Institutes for Research and Matrix Knowledge.  This partnership can give students employment information in several states, including Texas, Virginia and Florida.

They created a website to make this information available to interested families.

Don’t forget to stop by the alumni office if you cannot get employment information from the admission or career counseling offices.  Alumni can be a useful source of information on internships or even offer entry level jobs to recent graduates.

Be your own advocate.


Marguerite talks college admissions with St. Joseph’s College television

Marguerite Dennis explains to St. Joseph’s College Telecare TV network Transforming Communities how to demystify college admissions.

The show, hosted by Theresa LaRocca-Meyer, Vice President for Enrollment Management at St. Joseph’s, and Gigi Lamens, Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management, will be replayed several times on St. Joseph’s Telecare cable network.

The interview is part of Marguerite’s book tour for The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out and Get a Job. And, through the good graces of St. Joseph’s and Telecare Television, we have the full interview here (feel free to share it with your friends):

More Common Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting a College

Little doubt exist that selecting a college or university is among life’s most complex and intimidating challenges – for students and parents.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Our most recent post listed some of the most common mistakes families make when applying to colleges and universities.   We have more:

Graduation Rates or Progression Rates

In addition to asking about a school’s graduation rates, find out the progression rate from first to second year. That will give a better indication of the academic and student services programs in the first year and a good indication of the investment a school makes in its first year students.

Academic “Map”

Make certain you get an outline from the academic department of the academic “map” you need to follow in order to graduate in four, not five or six years.

Career Counseling

Some of the best schools in the country have a four year career counseling program and you should find out what each of the schools on your list do to help students get a job at graduation.  Ask for the employment statistics of recent graduates.

Alumni Networks

Find out how each of the schools on your list involves alumni to help students get either internships or entry level jobs.  Alumni networks can be essential to recent college graduates.

Common Mistakes When Selecting a College or University

Selecting a college or university can be a daunting experience, even for the best and brightest students.

Before applying to a college or university, try to avoid making these common mistakes:


The student wants to travel as far away from home as possible but the parents will only support enrolling in schools less than 500 miles away from home.  It is essential that families decide, before beginning any college investigation, the geographic parameters for enrollment.

How Many Applications?

Too many students file too many applications because they have not narrowed their choices and done the necessary investigative work. If you ask the right questions and get the right answers, you should not file more than 7 applications.

First Apply; then Figure Out How to Pay for College

Do not file any application until you know if you can afford to attend. Do this before application, not after acceptance.

Switch and Bait

Find out if the financial aid package you are awarded in the first year will continue in subsequent years.  Make certain the grant and loan ratios stay the same.

Parent Debt and Student Debt

The majority of college students borrow to pay for their educational expenses.

Last year the average debt was approximately $30,000.  But what about parent debt?  Find out how much parents have to borrow at each of the schools on your list.

Debt and First Year Starting Salaries

Debt is manageable or unmanageable based on first year starting salaries. Try not to borrow more than 15 percent of your first year starting salary.

In the next post, later this week, we’ll look at more common mistakes. 

Mr. Cohen cuts class, misses notes; not college costs

In an opinion piece published in the March 21 edition of the New York Times, attorney Steve Cohen suggests a quick way to cut college costs would be for Congress to reduce by 75 percent the “estimated family contribution,” or EFC, for middle class families with children headed to college or university.

I believe Mr. Cohen is mistaken and submitted to the Times a letter in rebuttal:

I must respectfully disagree with a basic premise in Mr. Cohen’s Op-Ed article in today’s New York Times.

It is folly for a family to spend time and money filing many college applications and only begin a conversation as to whether they can afford the school after an acceptance letter arrives in the mailbox.

To cut college costs, a more pro-active approach to college admission and financing is necessary. Families should have in-person ( or electronic) conversations with financial aid staff to get an estimate of Expected Family Contribution. At the same time they should also get an estimate of what the family can expect in federal, state and school funding. There are many colleges and universities meeting with parents and students in the evening or on the week-end to provide early estimates of financial costs and expected funds.

Some schools may be eliminated after this information is calculated. Other schools may stay on the college list as a result of the information.

Given the political climate in Washington, does anyone really believe, as Mr. Cohen suggests, that Congress and the President will act quickly to reduce the EFC by 75%?

The best way for families to control college costs is to take control, by getting good information early in the application cycle, of their ability to afford, or not afford, each of the schools on their college list.


Trends in International Education

International higher education is a big business, a $400 billion dollar “industry.”

Since 2000, the number of overseas students, graduate and undergraduate students and exchange students, has increased nearly 80%. International education is a business wrapped around every corner of the globe.

By 2025, global demand for seats in higher education is projected to double, reaching an annual enrollment of 200 million students.

As long as the middle class continues to grow in the developing world, demand for postsecondary education will continue to outpace supply.

No one country will dominate the international student market in the future. Students will migrate to new international destinations based on a variety of factors including price, visa eligibility, work  opportunities and availability of quality education in the students’ home country.

Technology and today’s “digital native” student will determine educational delivery methods in the future.

The increasing availability of telephone and Internet connections is starting to unite the world’s rich and poor. Online education will make higher education available to students who otherwise could not afford to attend college outside their home country.

For-profit institutions in the developed world will expand their educational services, especially as distance and e-learning providers.

In the future, private financing will increase and public financing will decrease, resulting in higher tuition rates.

Technological capabilities will continue to encourage the rise of global universities. These universities, rather than single institutions, will become the norm in the future. Strategic alliances will enhance  current international recruitment practices.

Colleges and universities throughout the world will consolidate and merge several universities into fewer “mega” universities. There will be a growing emphasis on regional and global collaboration.

Erasmus Mundus will expand the EU network past Europe to a global scale.

Most countries consider international academic mobility and educational exchanges as critical components for sharing knowledge, building intellectual capital and remaining competitive in a globalized world.

Countries that have historically been “sending” countries have developed their own internationalization strategies to attract foreign students to their countries to study.

The movement of students from developing to developed countries is changing, as unexpected players are now engaged in what can best be described as a global competition for international students.

On-line educational opportunities will become increasingly important to students from developing countries that do not have the financial resources to study abroad.

In the future, the balance between in-country enrollments and offshore enrollments will shift in the direction of offshore.

Demand for alternative methods of delivering higher education in the future is expected to outstrip demand for traditional methods by 6% before 2020.

Although some U.S. colleges and universities have closed their overseas campuses, other U.S. schools have expanded their overseas operation, especially in the Middle East and Asia. The Institute of International Education has created the IIE Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education, to assist colleges and universities in developing and sustaining institutional partnerships around the world.