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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 #5 – Planned Transfer

 

Transfer 2

I was reading an article the other day about how community college students can transfer to “Top” universities even an Ivy League school. The article highlighted the journey of a young man from a community college to Harvard, the implication – you can too.
What bull#8@%. Not total bulls… but mostly. Why?
The reality is “highly selective” – any school admitting less than 25% of students are not transfer friendly. Sure a handful of students transfer to these schools every year, but look at the numbers for Fall of 2017:
You might look at Northwestern University and think, “Not so bad”, until you realize Northwestern received 37,000+ applications for Fall 2017. Your odds are less than good and planning to transfer to these types of schools is not a practical strategy. 
The good news – many many colleges are transfer friendly. In fact, a large number rely on a steady stream of transfer students to meet enrollment goals every year.
A planned transfer is a great way to save on the overall cost of a college degree. Note the emphasis on “planned”.

 

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The first step in any planned transfer is to determine how transfer friendly a school is.
As a general rule of thumb, the greater the % of students admitted, the greater the likelihood a school is transfer friendly. Fortunately, it is not difficult to determine how selective a school is. There are plenty of college planning resources to utilize.
My favorite is – College Navigator. Search for a college and expanding the admissions tab reveals the admit rate:  

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Once you have determined if a college or two “might” be transfer-friendly, next research how these schools actually accept transfer credits.
Many colleges publish this information on their web site. Some even have handy tools to help you determine how credits will transfer from another school.
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UW – Eau Claire Transfer Wizard 

Many will refer you to Transferology (if they participate) an excellent transfer credit resource or MN Transfer. If you do your homework, you can determine exactly how schools will transfer your credits. But… 
Beware of general catalog statements (and even many articulation agreements). Many read a statement such as 

Transferring with an Associate Degree

  • The Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (MnTC) will grant a waiver of General Education requirements 
  • Associates of Arts (AA) degrees from Wisconsin and Minnesota will grant a waiver of University Requirements AND General Education requirements
and assume two years at a community college and two years at a four-year school and bingo – done.
Not so fast… Failing to understand what these statements really mean could result in not saving any money at all.
At the University of Wisconsin – River Falls (online catalog statement above) what they are really telling you is if you complete an associates degree at a community college you don’t need to complete the approximately 42 credits every student regardless of major must satisfy – their general education component is covered by your associate’s degree.
However, at UW-River Falls (75% admit rate) it takes a minimum of 120 credits to graduate… the remaining courses in your AA degree may or may not cover the other coursework necessary to complete your major.

UW River Falls

Many students can and do complete their associate’s degree, transfer to UW River Falls and complete a bachelors degree in two years. Others think this is the case, yet fail to research and determine how each and every course will transfer and do not.  
Just like a dual degree cost-saving strategy, you need to understand 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?
Sure, many schools will accept your Associate’s Degree classwork in transfer, but the critical question you need to ask yourself  – how many actually count toward the X number of credits I need to complete my degree program?
When working with a family on a planned transfer – we don’t focus on completing an associate degree or in many cases explicitly following an established articulation agreement. We work backward. Strategically, determining how each and every course will transfer and reduce the number of credits needed to graduate. 
Often this means a student only spends two or three semesters at a community college. Why? Pretty simple really. For many majors, you will maximize the number of credits which will satisfy degree requirements at your targeted transfer school before you complete an associate’s degree. 
A planned transfer is a great college cost-saving strategy. It may not get you into Harvard, but if you are strategic and diligent it will save you money at plenty of “good fit” schools!

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Seem like a great idea, but too time-consuming? 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.

Tuition Tuesday – College Savings Event

college-fund

Find a great doorbuster deal this past shopping weekend.  Saved yourself a couple hundred $$. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Passé.

How does saving thousands of $$$ grab you? Carol Merrill, what are we featuring behind Door #3…

College Tuition Savings.

There are many strategies to save on college tuition costs. Taking advantage of dual credit options offered by your high school is one such strategy. There are a number of programs:

  • Advanced Placement (AP)

  • Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO)

  • International Baccalaureate (IB)

  • College in the Schools (CIS)

that may be available at your high school.  However, be careful and strategic in planning duel credit options in a high school curriculum. Why? Consider the following quote from one university system,  “Many of our colleges grant credit to first-year students who have participated in such programs, but each institution has a slightly different policy. Find out which colleges accept what.”

Very true, but also very incomplete. The rub. Not all transfer credit is created equal. There is a BIG BIG difference between “credits being accepted ” and how they “satisfy degree requirements.” The key – satisfying degree requirements. This is how you reduce time to degree completion, thus saving you time and $$.

Working with a trusted college admission professional can save you thousands of dollars on the cost of a four-year degree by helping plan a strategy to maximize the number of dual degree credits which count toward degree requirements or by simply steering you to good match colleges thereby increasing odds of graduating in four years.

Let’s make Tuition Tuesday an annual college planning blockbuster savings event.   Start saving on the cost of college today. As an added bonus – sign up for any of my college planning packages by December 31, 2016 and I will knock 10% off the price.

Happy Tuition Tuesday!

 

 

 

 

The Most Expensive College?

The one you DO NOT graduate from!

Graduation

Only 48.5% of students graduate from the first college they attend.  Nationally 33% will transfer. Others simply never complete a degree. Think about that for a second. 48.5%. It is a pretty horrid success rate, not to mention a colossal waste of time and money.

Why the poor success rates? Far too many begin the college search too late – often waiting until senior year. Happy accidents do occur, but frequently a late start results in poor colleges choices – bad matches. Assessing good match (fit) colleges takes time and effort and cannot be done by simply reviewing college rankings list.

On way to mitigate the cost of higher education is to start early. Starting late does not leave enough time to properly research, analyze and carefully consider which colleges are good matches in three important areas – academically, socially and financially.

Top Ten Reasons to Choose a College

# 10 Because my friends, boyfriend/girlfriend is going there.
# 9A Its only 50 miles from home!
# 9B It’s 1,500 miles from home!
# 8 The Football team is good. It must be a good school!
# 7A Mom’s an Alumnus
# 7B Dad’s an Alumnus
# 7C Aunt Mabel’s an Alumnus
Wossamotta U. “it’s perfect for you”
# 6 It will make my “insert anyone but you“ happy
# 5 They sent me a brochure!
# 4 I toured. The Gals/Guys “Hubba Hubba”
# 3 I’m too busy. I will apply to several senior year and just pick one that admits me.
# 2 “Were only interested in the cheapest schools”
# 1 “It’s ranked in the Top 20”

NOT!

When only 48.5% of students graduate from the first college they attend, one simple fact rings true – the most expensive college is the one you don’t graduate from. Families who work with a college admissions expert significantly increase these odds and student’s often graduate from 1st choice schools in 4 years or less.

 

 

 

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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