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Strategies to Decrease the Cost of College #3 – Yield


What does “yield” have to do with college cost savings? Savvy consumers who understand how critical this figure is in admissions can often yield (pun intended) significant cost savings.
Yield is the metric most admissions directors obsess, fret, lose sleep over. Simply, yield = the number or percentage of admitted students who actually enroll and attend.
So, exactly why is yield important and why should you pay attention? Every college sets enrollment goals for its incoming class. Very few schools can boast of a yield rate like Stanford University of 82%:
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In reality, many colleges today scratch and claw for every student they enroll. In the 2018 State of College Admissions, the National Association for College Admission Counseling reported the average yield rate continues to decline – down to 33.6%.
Couple this with the fact the number of traditional college-aged students enrolling declined for the 7th consecutive year – Current Term Enrollment Fall 2018, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. means colleges (and admissions directors especially) feel the heat when they do not meet enrollment goals.
Multiple years of “low yields” translates to declining enrollments – which means budget shortfalls. On more than one campus I worked this meant delays in campus initiatives, building projects/upgrades or worse yet – program cuts and staff layoffs.
Is it any wonder many campus administrators and admissions directors lose sleep over “yield”?
Don’t feel too bad for them, they understand the ground rules, besides colleges have been less than transparent over the years in the pursuit of enrolling students:
  • Bombarded with brochures – a college reaching out doesn’t necessarily mean they have any intention of admitting you – many entice applications for the sole purpose of lowering admit rates in an attempt to boost rankings. 
  • Bait and switch – awarding more “free money” (grant and scholarship) to incoming freshman, and converting a % of this free money to loans in subsequent years. (always read the fine print on your financial aid award). 
  • Preferential Packaging – The art of offering more grants and scholarships to students it really wants to attract versus offering more loans to those “less desirable”.
  • Hidden costs – differential tuition rates, hidden fees, advertising room & board as “true” cost of attendance when in reality these are the “average” prices students pay,  etc. 
  • Do you really think early decision and early action admissions deadlines are designed to benefit “students”? If you do I have some property I would like to speak with you about.
  • etc., etc., etc. 
I digress…
Most colleges want- in actuality need – to yield as many students as possible from its pool of accepted students. Colleges often do “whatever it takes” to protect their yield. How might one benefit?
Let’s say hypothetically, Luther College is your top choice. Luther at 19% doesn’t have nearly the yield rate as Stanford.

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Furthermore, let’s assume Luther tends to compete with say, Gustavus Adolphus College (18% yield rate by the way), for the same pool of students.
Remember it is best to never eliminate a school until the end of this process – even if you have no intention of enrolling. Thus, hypothetically, I might suggest you show enough demonstrated interest in both schools to receive an offer of admissions.
For argument’s sake, we will say Gustavus Adolphus offered you $2,000 annually more in merit scholarships than Luther. You really prefer Luther, but…
Wink, Wink. Nudge. Nudge. See how “hypothetically” leveraging Luther’s “yield rate” versus Gustavus’s higher offer might potentially work in your favor (theoretically of course)?
Understanding the dynamics of “yield” can and does lead to cost savings – remember the average yield rate is currently about 33%. It will not work at every school, every situation is unique, and results can vary from year to year, but families can and do successfully mediate better financial packages.
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.


Strategies to Decrease the Cost of College #7 – Chase the Right Scholarships

Scholarships $$ sign
What is the #1 source of scholarship money? Many believe national organizations or competitions are the routes to go?
On the surface becoming a Coca Cola Scholar sounds great. Who wouldn’t want $20,000 grand? Yet if you dig into the numbers…
In 2018, approximately 96,000 students applied and 400 were awarded scholarships, so your odds of winning that $20,000 are less than 1/2%. Minnesota had a whopping four winners in 2018.
What about the National Merit Scholarship Contest?
Annually, approximately 1.6 million students participate.
  • Of these 1.6 million entrants, roughly 50,000 qualify to compete.
  • Of the 50,000, 15,000 become semifinalists.
  • In the end, only 7,500 finalists receive $2,500. 
Again your odds are less than 1%… There is no arguing being recognized as a National Merit Scholar can unlock additional merit awards at certain colleges and universities, yet for 1.5+ million students, is it really worth your time and effort?
Rule of thumb. For every 100 national scholarships you identify, you “might” qualify for 10. If you apply, you will be lucky to receive one.
For the vast majority of students, there is very little ROI versus the time and effort required to compete for national scholarships. 
Local?  Getting warmer.    college-fund


Roughly 8-10% of students will win a locally sourced scholarship – those available to students at your school or in your district (local chamber of commerce, businesses, organizations, endowed exclusively at your school, etc.).
Apply for these scholarships. Your odds of winning are greater and even though most fall in the $500 to $1,000 range many students are able to cobble together $2,000 – $2,500 towards the cost of college. Less $$ out of your pocket is never a bad thing. 
The #1 source of scholarship money?  Drum roll. 
The colleges themselves!
Stop chasing the wrong scholarships. There is money to be saved by strategically identifying good fit schools where your credentials can garner a significant discount on tuition, often greater than 50%.
Maybe Simpson College is a good fit. Advertised tuition for Fall 2019 = $39,910.


Simpson College


I hope you didn’t read the Sticker Price for Simpson and immediately say, “too expensive”. 
Based on the chart below, your tuition bill may be as little as $12,190 – an approximate 70% tuition discount.
You can find great values. How? One strategy is to “Chase the Right Scholarships” by strategically expanding your circle of safety. 
I help you identify fit good schools to match your unique academic, social and financial needs. Below is a small sample of scholarship monies I helped students find as they begin their Fall 2019 college journeys:
You have more choices than you think. Chase the “right” scholarships and you can significantly reduce your college costs.
Contact me today to learn how I will save you $$ on the cost of a college education.

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.


Strategies to Decrease the Cost of College #8 – Sticker Shock

What do mattresses, new cars, and college tuition have in common?
You rarely pay full price.

Sticker Shock Tuition

When I do college planning workshops, I frequently hear – “that college is too expensive to attend”. 
Too many families mistakenly eliminate a school as soon as they see the “Sticker Price”. The result – paying more than necessary for a college education. Why?
Colleges (especially private schools) need to discount tuition from advertised prices to compete with other colleges and universities.
Many families I work with are surprised to learn in many instances a so-called “more expensive” college will cost them less out of pocket than schools with cheaper advertised prices. 
How can this be? First, you need to understand how colleges calculate a financial aid package. The primary consideration is demonstrated need. At it’s most basic this is the financial aid formula all colleges use:

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EFC is the amount of money you are expected to contribute for one academic year. It is calculated by completing the FAFSA and/or the CSS Profile (not required by every college). 
Your EFC is the same regardless of how much a school charges, thus your need varies based on the cost of attendance (COA). 

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To illustrate, let’s assume your family EFC is $5,000 and you are considering the University of Minnesota (UMTC), the University of North Dakota (UND) and St. Olaf College.
In addition to understanding how EFC is used in financial aid calculations, it is also critical to research (understand) what % of need a college historically meets.
Historically, the UMTC meets 76% of demonstrated need.
UND 64%.
St. Olaf 100%.
Why is this so important? Since your EFC is constant ($5,000), your financial aid offer from these schools will vary considerably. 

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UMTC will likely offer you $17,657 in aid. UND $10,924. St. Olaf $55,990.
In the right circumstance the “more expensive” St. Olaf will cost you less out of pocket than the “less expensive” UMTC or UND. 


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Will this calculation work exactly the same for every family. No!
Many factors are used to determine a financial aid award, such as how much they want your son or daughter to attend (called preferential packaging – a topic for another day). Preferential packaging determines how much “free” money they will offer in the form of scholarships and grants versus loans.
Yet, the reality in today’s admissions environment – most colleges and universities need to “compete” to enroll your son or daughter. 
Ask yourself, can Gustavus Adolphus College really attract all the students it needs to meet its enrollment goals if they charge every student $57,280 (Fall 2018 published COA) versus the UMTC which charged $28,233? 
No like, most colleges Gustavus will “discount” tuition from their published sticker price for many many students. 
Thus, it is really is not uncommon to receive a financial aid award which makes a “more expensive” college if not the less costly alternative, then comparable to a school with a low sticker price. Use this knowledge to your advantage to save $$$ on the cost of a college education. 
The best time to eliminate a school is at the end of this process after you have learned what a school is willing to offer you. Not at the beginning, when you see the advertised price!
You have choices.
Contact me today to learn how I will save you $$ on the cost of a college education.

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.

10 Strategies to Decrease the Cost of College

Don’t believe the headlines. A college education does not “need” to cost a proverbial “arm and leg”. Over the next few weeks, I will share 10 Strategies to Decrease the Cost of College (and Student Debt):

You have more choices than you think!

Interested in learning how to save on the cost of a college education – Contact me today.

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.


Athletic Scholarships – Buyer Beware

Kelsey Softball Catcher

November traditionally kicks off the holiday season. It also ushers in the NCAA “early signing” period (historically the 2nd Wednesday in November).

If you are intent on playing competitively in college, the NCAA National Letter of Intent (NLI) “early signing” period this year falls between November 9 – 16, 2016 for NCAA Division I and II athletic programs in sports other than football, soccer, and men’s water polo.

When working with prospective athletes, I have rules of thumb, among them: a) Like the school more than the coach and b) Like the school more than the sport. Before you sign on the dotted line consider the following:

1. The proverbial full ride is largely a myth. Most college sports teams are defined as equivalency sports  (a “head count” sport = full-ride scholarship.  An “equivalency sport” = typically a partial scholarship). All NCAA sanctioned sports have mandated scholarship limits. For example, a Division I men’s swimming and diving program is limited to 9.9 scholarships, with an average roster size of 28. What is a coach to do? Split those 9.9 scholarships up. Unless your name is Katie Ledecky (Stanford) or Michael Phelps (U. Michigan) do not count on a full ride. The average athletic scholarship covers approximately 30% of your annual costs. Individual families still pay 70% of the bill.

2. Another misconception – scholarship offers cover multiple years. NOPE. Most scholarships offers cover a one-year period. The majority of scholarships are renewed annually at the discretion of the coach. D I programs have the option of offering scholarships for multiple years, however it is the exception rather than the rule.

3. Signing a NLI IS binding. You are making at minimum a one-year commitment to attend and play. The institution is committed to giving you an athletic scholarship for one year. Failing to understand the binding nature of a NLI is can have consequences affecting your eligibility and options if you later decide you made the wrong decision and want to transfer. I aim to avoid this by helping you identify “good match” schools you will be happy to attend regardless if you are competing.

4. If you sign with a NCAA Division II school and are later offered a scholarship by a NCAA Division I school, you CANNOT sign with the D I school. Signing either a D I or D II offer is binding. The school you originally signed with must agree to release you from your commitment – sometimes easier said than done.

5. If a coach is fired or bolts to another program after you have signed your NLI, you ARE NOT released from your commitment. Many mistakenly make this assumption. Coaches are free to move about (by choice or otherwise), athletes are not. Your commitment is to the SCHOOL, not the COACH. It is one reason I preach – “Like the school more than the coach…”

6. Competing in college at the NCAA level requires you meet certain academic eligibility standards. No school will offer an NLI, unless you have registered with and have been cleared to play by the NCAA Eligibility Center. If you haven’t, register today.

7. Can’t decide? What happens if you don’t sign during the November early signing period? Your next opportunity to sign is in early April of the following year, commonly referred to as the “late signing” period. Are there risks to waiting until April? It depends. Coaches hope to fill as many open roster spots as feasible during the early signing period, but only the top top programs are consistently able to do so. For the majority of programs the recruiting season extends to the April late signing period.

8. Once I sign my NLI, can coaches from other programs contact me? No. When you sign it is binding. Once signed, other schools need to stop recruiting you. Does it still happen? Yes, but what goes around comes around.

9. A verbal commitment IS NOT binding.

10. Division III (D III) schools are prohibited from awarding athletic scholarships.

Buyer beware! Make sure YOU understand what YOU are committing to.

Scholarships – The Holy Grail

You’ve completed the FAFSA.  Seen your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) figure for the next academic year. Likely are thinking, “how am I going to pay for this?” You are in same boat as the vast majority of families – make too much to qualify for Federal Aid, but can’t simply write a check for the cost of college.
Your thoughts turn to scholarships… the Holy Grail of college funding.
We’ve all seen the headlines screaming, “How I Helped My Son Win over $100,000 in College Scholarship $$… and I Can Show You How You Can Too”.  Don’t believe the hype.  The secret – sweat equity.  The rule of thumb for national scholarship competitions:
  • For every 100 scholarships you find, you
  • May qualify for 10, and odds are you “might” win
  • One!
There are no magic wands.  Don’t be romanced by the headlines or focus your entire strategy on the big payout potential of national competitions like Coca Cola Scholars or the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program. Why? Exactly two students from Minnesota were recognized as Coca Cola Scholars in 2016. Wisconsin three. California the most populous state, 15. The odds are long. The competition is intense.
The minuscule % of families who manage such headline grabbing awards often employ a scholarship or two or three a day approach.  If your child has the gumption to research, apply and submit as many as three scholarship entries a day, by all mean have at it. For the rest of us lazy souls?
Turn your attention to the greatest source of scholarship $$. The colleges themselves. To get you started visit my College and University Scholarships page which will link you to the freshman merit or general scholarship opportunities at many colleges.
Look first for automatic scholarships. Many colleges offer them based simply on test scores, GPA, and academic rank. Don’t stop there. Dig deep. The linked College and University scholarship pages do not represent a schools comprehensive list of free money. Dig into the college web site to unearth opportunities for transfer, sophomore, junior, and senior students. Hint: you will often (but not always) find this information within individual academic departments in the form of scholarships, grants, stipends, fellowships, etc. or on the schools financial aid page.
The next best source of scholarships? Local opportunities, which too many families overlook. Don’t underestimate the potential payout from local sources. You will likely qualify for many many more $500, $1,000, or $2,000 local scholarships then any national competition. Last year Cola Cola Scholars had 150 winners and upwards of 70,000 applications. Your local credit union = three $2,000 scholarships and maybe 25-30 applications, 100 tops – have to like those odds.
The first places to look locally are:
  • chambers of commerce
  • fraternal organizations (Lions, Elks, Rotary, VFW, American Legion, etc.)
  • your church
  • your financial institution
  • counseling/guidance office at your high school
  • your employer
  • athletic organizations
  • charitable organizations
  • my list of scholarships open to MN residents
Don’t have the time to do the research. Don’t know where to start? Need help crafting a strategic scholarship search or strategy to find good match colleges where your daughter/son may qualify for merit scholarships?  Give me a shout.




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