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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.

 

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.

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