Costs – Page 4 – Do It Yourself College Rankings

Have You had “The Talk” Yet?

alarm clock and money representing if you have had the college money talk yetAs families approach the college planning process, there’s one thing they need to do before anything else and that is have “the talk.” I know, parents have been putting it off because it can be embarrassing. Who wants to discuss such potentially intimate details with their teenagers? Besides, you’re pretty sure the school counselors have covered the topic so there’s no point in having to suffer through the rolling eyes and general awkwardness if you don’t have to.

Well, I’m telling you right now that you have to because “the talk” I’m referring to isn’t the “birds and the bees” but something just as important, “The Money Talk.”

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You Can’t Get Merit Aid From a College You Never Apply To

hand rejecting bag of money representing applying to colleges without generous merit aidIn a previous post, I defined Expected Family Contribution (EFC), how it works theoretically, and what happens in the real world. For many families, the difference between theory and practice is irrelevant since their EFC is much higher than their actual ability to pay. There are steps that you can take to reduce your EFC, and you should definitely do if you have the opportunity. However, the fact is that you’re likely to do more to cut the cost of college by targeting the right school than by trying to rearrange your finances.

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Why Your EFC Should be how you Start Your College Search

getting started game piecesWhat is EFC?

To start your college search, you need to be able to answer this question. If you’re like most parents starting the college search process, you don’t have a clue what EFC means. In fact, most parents don’t understand until they are well into the college application process which is not a good thing.

So what is EFC? EFC stands for “Expected Family Contribution” and is the term used by the Federal Government and colleges to state how much parents are expected to pay for their child’s college education.

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Cutting College Costs: Community Colleges with Dorms

girl on bed with computer in community colleges with dorms(I’ve updated the number of community colleges with dorms with data available from IPEDS in June, 2019.) As families recoil in horror contemplate the price tag of four years of college, some start to look more closely at all of the available options, including community colleges with dorms. Since community colleges are offering more traditional college amenities such as dorms, honor programs, sports, and student activities, they are becoming a more attractive way for families to seriously cut their college expenses.

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50-50 Highlights: 40 Colleges for High-Income Families–and 40 Colleges to Avoid

money and graduation hat representing colleges for high income familiesFamilies are told not to avoid private colleges and universities because of their high sticker prices. The fact is that very few people pay the actual sticker price. This includes families in the highest income category since most private colleges provide financial aid for high income families in the form of tuition discounting more commonly known as “merit aid.” However, some 50-50 schools are more likely to offer merit aid than others. This means that some colleges will be much more affordable for high income families than others–assuming the student qualifies for merit aid.

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50-50 Highlights: Colleges for Low-Income Students–and which to avoid

sttudent representing average net price for families with low income(Updated for 2019) Robert J. Kibbee, the former Chancellor of City University New York, observed “Over the years, we have come to identify quality in a college not by whom it serves but by how many students it excludes. Let us not be a sacred priesthood protecting the temple, but rather the fulfillers of dreams.” And if the dreams fulfilled aren’t going to be determined by family income, colleges are going to need to provide substantial financial aid to the neediest students.

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50-50 Highlights: Colleges Where Students Are Most Likely to Graduate with Debt

golden graduate figure holding on to debtIn case you’ve been in a coma and haven’t heard, there is a student loan crisis. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the total student loan debt of $1.46 billion exceeds that of consumer credit card debt. Apparently, students are borrowing too much to pay for college. Of course, you could argue that maybe they’re not borrowing too much, they just don’t have jobs that will allow them to make their loan payments. Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that students are often borrowing more than they can reasonably repay.

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50-50 Highlights: Best Public Universities for Low Income Students by State

Stacks of coins and graduation hat representing Best Public Universities for Low Income StudentsGiven that very few private colleges meet 100% of financial need, the cheapest option for most low-income students will be one of their state’s public universities. There will always be some low-income students that will have their full need met at private colleges, but they will be the exception. The majority will find themselves “gapped” and forced to consider private loans to make up the difference.

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50-50 Highlights: 54 Public Colleges for Merit Aid

Piggy bank on calculator representing best public colleges for merit aid(The following has been updated for 2019.) Merit scholarships from colleges aren’t simply a way for schools to reward students for accomplishments, it’s part of the supply and demand of paying for college. Colleges use merit aid as a way to increase the supply of “accomplished” students at their schools. This is why the most competitive colleges in the country such as Princeton and Harvard don’t offer merit scholarships–they have no problem attracting high achieving students to their schools.

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