Monday, November 30, 2020

How Can I Afford College?

There is a million dollar difference between a high school graduate and college graduate, over their lifetime of earnings. What could be a better investment than a college degree?

Various tidbits about financial aid and the cost of college

Colleges make some assumptions about your ability to contribute to tuition and room/board. They expect it to come from three sources: money you saved for college in the past as a parent or student, current income stream, and 'borrowing' from expected future earnings of the student or parent.What you'll find on this page:
  • Forbes Magazine's handy intro to the financial aid process
  • NACAC's powerpoint about applying for financial aid
  • Tuition Break on certain majors
  • Out of State Universities that charge in state rates (& find out how to be eligible for in-state rates)
  • Best Buys
  • Colleges with No Loans
  • Q&A with Harvard's Financial Aid Director
  • Best values in public colleges - Kiplinger's picks
  • Public vs. Private colleges and financial aid
  • Money Magazine's take on why tuition increases so much each year
  • NY Times article providing an insider's look at BU's financial aid officers
  • NY Times article on how to plan to pay for college, organized by school year
  • NY Times article on home equity and financial aid with 2020 update
  • NY Times article on full payers finding it easier to gain admission

Choose a major not offered at any Maine state university, and go to to another New England state university (UNH, URI) where that major is offered but pay lower than out-of-state rates: For example, want to major in "Music Business"? UMass Lowell has the major, UMaine doesn't, and you won't pay the full out-of-state tuition rate, but something lower.

Some colleges offer in state tuition (less expensive) or a discount to out of state applicants. 
==== ALABAMA ====
University of Alabama
Requirements: 3.0 GPA, certain test scores will get you full tuition or a discount
University of Alabama - Birmingham
Requirements: 3.0 GPA, certain test scores
University of South Alabama
Requirements: 3.0 GPA, certain test scores
University of North Alabama
Requirements: 3.0 GPA, certain test scores
University of West Alabama
Requirements: 3.0 GPA, certain test scores
==== ARKANSAS ====
Arkansas State University
Requirements: 3.0 GPA, certain test scores
University of Arkansas - Little Rock
Requirements: 3.0 GPA, certain test scores
==== ILLINOIS ====
Southern Illinois University
Requirements: certain test scores
==== LOUISIANA ====
University of Louisiana - Lafayette
Requirements: some admitted students get in state tuition
University of Louisiana - Monroe
Requirements: 2.5 GPA, certain test scores
Louisiana Tech University
Requirements: certain test scores
Southeastern Louisiana University
Requirements: certain test scores
==== MINNESOTA ====
Minnesota State University - Moorhead
Requirements: certain test scores
Mississippi State University
Requirements: 3.0 GPA, certain test scores
University of Mississippi (Ole Miss)
Requirements: 3.0 GPA, certain test scores
==== MISSOURI ====
Missouri State University
Requirements: certain test scores and gpa minimums
==== OKLAHOMA ====
East Central University
Requirements: certain test scores and gpa minimums
Oklahoma State University
Requirements: certain test scores

Great list of "best buys" can be found in The Fiske Guide book.

Not much in the northeast, but Cooper Union (NYC) & Olin (Boston), both extremely competitive for admissions. These colleges get mentioned quite a bit since they do not charge much tuition. But their admit rates are so low, very few will benefit from that deal.

Popular choices for Cheverus applicants: Grinnell, Macalaster, UNC Chapel Hill, Cal Tech, Case Western Reserve, Elon, Rice. Mainers may find that colleges outside New England, and outside the northeast, are less expensive (for example, the south & midwest)


No Loans? Cool!

On average, Maine college students graduate with $30,000+ in debt.
"Amherst College announced it is eliminating all loans for students, effective with the Class of 2012. In 1999, Amherst eliminated loans for students from families with incomes of less than $40,000, but many students continue to borrow. In 2006-7, almost one third of Amherst students received aid packages that included loans. Anthony W. Marx, Amherst’s president, said in a statement that the shift “broadens” the commitment made in 1999 “by eliminating barriers for middle income families.” The college expects to spend about $1.6 million next year to replace loans with grants. While a number of colleges have eliminated loans for those below certain income levels, blanket policies like this one are rare. Princeton University eliminated loans in 2001 and Davidson College did so this year." (source: Inside Higher Ed 7/20/07)


Questions like "Is it better to save money for college, or are colleges likely to provide more aid for families who have not saved? " are answered by Harvard's Financial Aid director in a Boston Globe article.

The answer is:
"Saving for college is a good thing to do. The alternative is to rely on loans. Rarely can a family come up with the entire family contribution a college expects out of current income. Like most important investments, we assume that a family will finance education expenses over time. A family who has saved carefully for education will possibly not need to borrow."

Source: Boston Globe 9/28/2007 "Paying for College 101"


Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine has their own take on college affordability. One issue lists "Best Values in Public Colleges". Their website features a terrific database, where you can sort by cost for out of state student, debt at graduation, 4 year graduation rate.

Here's a link to the table:


Public colleges are less expensive than private. University of Southern California, a private university, has this advice:
"...for those students weighing the pros and cons of a private university education, don't forget to factor in that students will probably receive a larger financial aid award from a private university. Though room and board are about the same everywhere, most students at private institutions graduate in four years. This can add up to considerable savings compared to many public institutions, where staying for a 5th year is increasingly the norm."

Source: USC Counselor News: Quarterly Update for Guidance Counselors, Winter 2008


Money Magazine puts forth a controversial statement that tuition increases make college more popular, i.e. families think that the ones that cost the most MUST be better! Fascinating reading on why tuition keeps going up up up. Another reason? Those lush campus grounds, new science labs and fancy dorms with lots of food choices in the cafeterias that we demand...


An insider's look at how BU makes financial aid decisions:


organized by school year, good advice for saving for college:


how do colleges use home equity in awarding financial aid? and find an updated listing of which colleges use home equity, an another home equity resource here.


Full payers have an easier time gaining admission to highly selective colleges:
links verified 11/2020

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