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Strategies to Decrease the Cost of College #4 – Graduation Rates

 

College Graduation

What is the admit rate to Harvard? Stanford? University of Minnesota?
Many know because so much gets written and too much emphasis is placed upon how difficult it is to get into certain colleges.
When considering colleges, rarely does one ask, “What is Wossamotta U’s graduation rate?” When the ultimate end game is to graduate – I want to know how long it will take to get out.
Today it takes students on average 5.1 years to graduate with his/her four-year degree, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Thus, it is important to understand the likelihood I am paying for four, five or six years to finish a degree.
The graphic below highlights how much a degree will cost (based on Fall 2018 cost of attendance) if completing it in four, five or six years at three different schools. 

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Sadly, four in ten families have no strategy to pay for four years of college, let alone five plus – Sallie Mae 2017 – How American Pays for College. – with each year beyond four typically funded by taking on increased debt.
It is extremely important to find and enroll at a good fit school. Statistics tell us tells there is a direct correlation between choosing a “good match” school and your retention and ultimate graduation from that school – even if it takes you > four years. But, the numbers do tell us something.
Look at the percentage of students who graduate from these schools in four years:
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Compared to:
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Comparing graduation rates can yield potential cost-savings. In a surprising number of instances, your overall out of pocket costs will be lower if you graduate in four years from a “higher cost” school than six years from a school with a lower sticker price.
Just as I advocate never eliminating a school based on its sticker price if Winona State University is a good fit and your top choice do not eliminate it solely because their four-year graduation rate is lower than others.
All schools have warts and many students leave for a variety of reasons having nothing to do with the college itself, and just because the typical student doesn’t graduate in four years it does not mean you will not, however…
Be mindful of certain realities – something systematic regarding how a school offers (sequences) classes or the types of students it attracts or its student services/resources or cost of attendance, or funding mechanisms or etc., makes it more difficult to graduate in four years than other schools.  
Focus less on admit rates. Pay more attention to graduation rates when determining if a college is a good financial fit.
After all, the goal is to graduate. And in my humble opinion – in four years or less!
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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.

Strategies to Decrease the Cost of College #6 – Dual Enrollment

 

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A typical four-year state institution will cost you approximately $26,000 to attend for one academic year (see chart below). 
A dual enrollment strategy (taking AP, PSEO, IB, CIS or PLTW coursework in high school) is one of my favorite strategies to save families money on the cost of college.
Shaving one semester or even one year off a college degree is easier than you think – if you know what you are doing. 

 

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After a workshop recently, a family came up and asked, “Can you help us get our son more credits for his PSEO classes”. As a former registrar, I knew the answer would be no. 
As a cost-saving strategy, their son enrolled in a Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program at a local community college. The hope – he would graduate in 2 to 2 1/2 years with his four-year degree.
The reality – his first choice school was only awarding him nine credits towards his degree requirements for the two years worth of PSEO classes he completed. Sadly, he had taken the wrong courses. Many mistakenly believe all college credit is created and awarded equally. 
There is a BIG BIG BIG difference between a course being accepted in transfer and how it will be used to satisfy a degree requirement. Did I mention BIG?
Many colleges will “transfer” in all your courses with a grade of “C” or better, but the critical question you need to ask yourself  – which courses will count toward my degree program? 
How colleges accept dual enrollment credit (or any transfer credit for that matter) is highly variable from school to school and even program to program within individual schools. 
Let’s assume you took AP Chemistry in high school with the goal of satisfying a lab science requirement in college. Let’s further assume you scored a 4 on the exam. If you enroll at Hamline University your AP Chemistry course will only count as an elective.  

 

At the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire the same result means you will be awarded 5 credits for their CHEM 105/106 course (satisfying a general education lab science requirement). Whallah – you are five credits closer toward your degree!

 

 

Why the difference? The reasons are nuanced and too numerous to discuss on this post, but the basic reality is the same – there is no universal standard for how an institution will accept college-level credits in transfer into their degree programs. Each school independently determines how a course will transfer. 
What are the keys to employing a successful Dual Enrollment Cost Saving Strategy?
  • sdrowkcaB gnikroW – research and understand Degree Requirements
  • Understand this will not work at highly selective schools (schools which enroll < 25-30% of students who apply). 
You need to be strategic and work backward. Start by determining which courses are required to graduate from a specific degree program

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then research which dual enrollment courses you can take to pluck off degree requirements. In this University of North Dakota (UND) example, taking AP Calculus AB (and scoring 3 or greater on the exam) is equivalent to UND’s MATH 165 Calc I course. One course down.
Taking POLS 1031 as a Century College PSEO student and getting a grade of “C” or higher is equivalent to taking UND’s POLS 115 course thus satisfying their Essential Studies Social Science requirementTwo courses down.
And so on!
Will this strategy work for everyone? No – you need to successfully complete college-level coursework. But plenty of students can and do.
Does it take time and effort to research? Yes. Is the research easy? No – you must meticulously determine how each course will transfer to multiple good match schools.
Simple strategy? I think so. 
Knocking off time and credits to complete your college degree by taking the “right” dual enrollment courses is an extremely effective way to save time and money.

 

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*Approximate Fall 2018 COA

Enrolling in and completing dual enrollment coursework is one of my favorite college cost-saving strategies.  
Seem like a great idea, but too much for you to handle. Contact me… I have helped numerous families shave thousand’s of $$ off a college degree, by counseling them on the “right” dual enrollment classes to take.
You have plenty of good fit options!

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.

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