Tag Archives: college affordability

How to understand financial aid award letters

Decode College Financial Aid Awards!

Okay, what the heck! Why can’t colleges just be clear about their financial aid offers.

All across the nation, high school seniors are receiving their financial aid award letters from the colleges to which they have been accepted.

Students and parents alike will be overjoyed as they take a first glance at these letters. After all, real professionals have carefully formulated these documents for maximum obfuscation.

Many who receive these well-crafted offers will believe that their top choice college dreams have been fulfilled.

The celebrations will commence. The heady feelings will go on for days. Then, someone may point out a questionable figure in the offer, and the clouds of doubt will move in.

The family will be confused, and as usual it will fall to Mom to interpret the meaning of the cryptic line item.

Mom, the detective, must now spend hours and days on the internet seeking out experts. She will repeatedly call the college or colleges asking questions, the answers for which she has no background to make an informed interpretation.

When, through enormous effort, the bad news is revealed, and it is determined that the dream college is unaffordable, there will be WAILING. And that’s not all…there will also be DOOR SLAMMING. Shall I go on? No, I think you get the picture…

Why, why, why can’t this information be made clear right away. Get the bad news out there and move on.

Do colleges really think that families will somehow make magic money appear? Well, yes. But it will probably be the magic money known as soul-crushing student loan debt.

It’s time for all financial aid award letters to be standardized to help consumers. So far, the only thing out there is the Education Department’s Financial Aid Shopping Sheet. Thankfully, it’s being adopted, albeit slowly, by some correct-thinking colleges.

My hope for the future is that all colleges and universities get on the transparency bandwagon!

Should Community College Be Free?

The President thinks tuition at community colleges should be free for all eligible students. His plan is expensive and controversial, but it shines a much needed spotlight on community colleges.

Here is  my video explaining why community colleges are so valuable to folks who think they can’t afford the high price of going to college. Please watch and then read more about the President’s plan.

The President’s plan aims to help make public community colleges more affordable to high school graduates so that they can ultimately get better paying jobs. Some students may start work after getting their AA degree, some may move on to 4-year colleges, and some may earn occupational certificates for specific lines of work.

Most education writers opine that this proposal has little chance of passing in the current political climate. But most everyone sees the need to raise the overall education level of the U.S. workforce.

So whether it’s this idea or another, we need to get cracking!

Here’s how the President’s plan lays out:

First and foremost, the feds will contribute three-forths of a student’s tuition. The State will contribute the other one-forth. States can decide whether to opt in or out of the plan.

The federal money would comprise what is known as the “first dollars” of the tuition contribution. This is important because other scholarships and grants can then be used for non-tuition educational expenses.

States that agree to opt in must bring their community colleges up to four-year college standards. Credits earned in a state’s two-year college should be seamlessly transferable to that state’s four-year universities.

Community colleges that have occupational certificate programs must offer courses for in-demand jobs and show good graduation rates.

Students must maintain a C+ average and attend at least half time. They need to show steady progress toward a degree or certificate.

I personally like the plan’s aim to expand community college capacity nationwide. With that goal accomplished, the for-profit colleges that so ill-serve American students will be banished to the dustbin of higher education history.

So, keep your eye on this proposal and others that will be sparked by the controversy surrounding it. College students and their families need a break!

President proposes free community colleges.
Maybe someday we will have free tuition for all students at community colleges.