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Strategies to Decrease the Cost of College #1 – The Most Expensive College?

What is the most expensive college? 

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“The one you don’t graduate from!”
It is sort of a trick question and the answer commonly elicits a chuckle from a crowd. Yet, when I ask this follow up question – “How many of you know an individual who did not graduate from the first institution they attended?” – without fail 1/2 to 3/4 of the hands shoot up. Most of us do.
Nearly 1 in 2 students do not graduate from the 1st school they attend. Maybe you know “Passive Aggressive Pete”:

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“Pete” was a young man whom I invited into my office at the University of St. Thomas. Pete a stellar high school student, was failing most of his courses. “Surely, there are resources UST can provide to assist”, I asked. Pete looked at me and candidly replied, “Nope. I’m pissing my old man’s money away”. Pete eventually revealed he didn’t want to be at St. Thomas – but didn’t have a choice – everyone in the extended family had attended UST…
UST is a fine institution. But in Pete’s case did not fit. This was his passive-aggressive way of making his point. In today’s dollars, this is an awful lot of $$ to flush away. 
Maybe you know an “Annika”? 

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Class valedictorian. Had many many colleges recruiting her, yet her parents refused to take her to visit any of them, albeit one option – The University of Minnesota – because it was close and “cheaper” than most. But, Annika didn’t want to go to school in MN – the U. was not a good match – she did not want an extension of high school and yearned to experience a diversity of thought, culture, etc. She certainly didn’t want to attend a school with 35,000+ other undergraduates. Annika managed for a couple of years, before dropping out. She is now working as a barista at a Starbucks.
Turns out the U wasn’t “cheaper” after all. 
You likely know someone who chose their college by following friends (or worse yet a boyfriend/girlfriend) or because they liked their sports teams or listened to crazy Uncle Bob who claimed, “XYZ University was great for me, it will be for you too” or relied only on “reputation” or waited until the last minute and “fell into a college” or etc., etc.
Unhappily, thousands of Pete’s and Annika’s begin college every year. Students who end up at the wrong school for all the wrong reasons – often leaving sometime during freshman or sophomore year. Annually hundreds of millions of dollars are lost on sunk costs you never get back (room/board/tuition/fees/travel/etc.), lost wages, credits which don’t transfer lengthening the time to degree completion, additional loan debt, and so forth and so on.
Contrast them with “Danielle” the Designer. 

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Egad, Danielle’s dream school is ranked 191st by a national college ranking service! Her dad, the practical sort, wants her to major in chemistry because it is a “promising” career field and of course he has a colleague whose daughter has a fashion design degree and is managing a GAP store at the Mall of America. Mom wants “her baby girl” to go to school close to home. 

What would you do?

Fortunately, Danielle never waivered. Cooler heads prevailed. Ignoring “rankings”, Danielle enrolled at her dream school. She recently completed her junior year and is on track to graduate in four years. This “so-called” 191st ranked program?
The Fashion School at Kent State University.  Industry insiders (those who really matter and do the hiring), consistently rank it as one of the top five in the country. According to one industry professional, “…with study abroad programs in NYC, Paris, & Milan; a large endowment for scholarships, a fashion-focused MBA program, a high profile within the fashion industry…this school is one of the top American fashion schools and keeps getting better…” It is/was a good fit for Danielle. 
“The one you don’t graduate from!” So simple, yet so true – the #1 college cost-saving strategy really is finding a “Good Match” school.
In fact, life happens, but research shows a strong correlation between enrolling at a “good match” school and retention and graduation from said school. 
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College is expensive enough. Follow Danielle’s lead. Chose the “right” college in the first place and it will save you thousands of dollars. 
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Need help finding good match colleges. Contact me. and I can work with you to shave thousand’s of $$ off a college degree.  

Jeff has spent 30+ years working in higher education as a Registrar and Director of Student/Academic Services. As an educational college planning consultant, he uses his experience and insights to save you $$$ by helping you in identify “good match” colleges to fit your academic, social and financial needs.

 

Does Tuition at Every College Cost $50,000?

No!  

Look at the tuition rates (approximate for 2015-16) for a handful of colleges in the image below.

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Yet ad nauseum I am reminded of the high price of college. This morning I read another story on the rising cost of college tuition. The other day my news feed was inundated with this storyaverage college debt is up again this year“. Why the doom and gloom? It sells. The sad reality is the mainstream media focuses 99% of their coverage, upon a handful of highly selective schools – the roughly 150 schools with admit rates under 20% and where tuition alone costs upwards of $40,000+
Are college cost rising. Yes, I won’t argue that point, but… there are many many great affordable programs that don’t cost the proverbial “arm and a leg”. When was the last time you read an article on Truman State University?  
Did you know Truman is considered a “Public Ivy”, is recognized as a College of Distinction, was a top producer of U.S. Fulbright students for the 2015-2016 academic year, and boasts high graduation, retention and post graduation rates rates? Oh, and it’s affordable. As a Midwest Student Exchange Program partner institution, out of state students in eight partner states (including MN) pay a MSEP tuition rate of approximately $10,728 this academic year. Look beyond the headlines!  
Look beyond the box scores! And beyond a geographic region. There is more to the Crimson Tide, than football. How does a full tuition scholarship opportunity for out of state students grab you? Touchdown! The University of Alabama offers attractive academic merit scholarships for out of state students with a composite ACT of 27+ and a 3.5+ GPA. A scholarship + a reasonable out of state tuition rate = affordable.  
One national college publication¹ reviewing small college bargains had this to say about the University of Minnesota Morris. “If you’ve ever taken a wrong turn on the way to Duluth, you might have stumbled upon one of the best public liberal arts colleges in the country.” Despite being geographically challenged (UM-Morris is pretty much due west of Minneapolis), the Fiske Guide does nail the fact it is a great academic institution. With both low tuition rates (in and out of state) and competitive merit scholarships, UM Morris is a very affordable option.  Look beyond the headlines!
Reduced out of state tuition options, i.e,. Reciprocity.  Residents of MN, WI, ND, SD, and the Canadian province of Manitoba enjoy lower tuition rates if they attend public colleges and universities in these states.  For MN residents, the University of North Dakota is one such option. There is a reason the Princeton Review included it in the 2015 The Best 379 Colleges edition. Low tuition, strong academic programs, and automatic merit scholarships = affordability. Look for regional tuition discount programs!
Look beyond four year degree options! Still haven’t grown out of the Thomas the Tank Engine phase? Dream of being a railroad engineer? Consider the Railroad Conductor Technology Certificate program at Dakota County Technical College. This program boasts established partnerships with many national and regional railroads, high program placement rates for graduates (the industry is experiencing high retirement attrition), and the 16 credit certificate program generally takes less than one year to complete. High placement rates + low tuition + < one year to complete + above average beginning salaries = affordable.
Good match colleges and universities exist for everyone. Eschew the doom and gloom articles. And any “College Rankings” for that matter. Find colleges that match “fit” your college bound students academic strengths, talents and interests and meet their needs academically, socially and financially. More good match colleges and programs exist than you might think.

¹Fiske Guide to Getting Into the Right College, 4th edition

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